Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Release, by E. Flanigan

I was pleasantly surprised to get stories from people who don't normally frequent this blog or comment here. So here's one from a new name to these parts ...

To read yesterday's story, check out The 5,000-Pound Gorilla, by Mark Terry.

Comment away!

Release, by E. Flanigan

She wasn't even sure when the question of circumcision had come up. Maybe the seventh month.

Bill had acted like it was a foregone conclusion. "A kid should look like his father. Don't you think so?" He placed a dirty plate in the dishwasher and looked up at her.

Jane hesitated, unsure of what to say next. Truthfully, an image had formed in her mind's eye of Bill's stubby purple knob, and she tried to picture it with a foreskin. Then she pictured it without. She shifted in her seat.

"I don't know, Bill. I read the foreskin is a source of a lot of sexual pleasure. I don't want to rob him of anything."

Bill guffawed. "Wait till he's sixteen. You won't mind robbing him then."

Jane didn't like the idea that her baby would someday be a man, if sixteen can even be considered manhood. It's old enough to get laid, at least, she thought. She didn't like that idea, either.

Her first time, she hadn't looked down much. Was there a foreskin? Would I be able to tell? When she dreamed that night, she dreamt she was in high school.

It wasn't until the day Michael was born and Jane was changing his diaper that she considered it again. She looked at his penis. It was little, like a pinkie. Smaller than a pinkie. She tried to picture someone cutting it and then decided to get the nurse.

"If I want to, can I change my mind?"

The nurse was busy; she didn't care what happened as long as it didn't add more paperwork. She didn't mind hearing babies cry.

"It's a minor procedure," the nurse said. "Babies tolerate it well."

Jane's mother said, "See, you're just being a new mother. You have to let it go."

Jane tried to picture Michael as a man. She tried to envision him on top of a pot-bellied, droopy-breasted woman. She tried to decide whether he had a foreskin, and whether his wife would be happy. But all she could picture was a crying baby.

That afternoon as Jane flipped through Michael's new baby book, she saw a page that said, "Baby's First Haircut." It had a little envelope glued on for the snip of hair to go into.

When the nurse came in again, Jane asked, "Can I have the foreskin? For his baby book?"

The nurse set down her blood pressure cuff and looked at Jane for a long minute. "Jesus, will you save all his toenail clippings, too?" Then she left the room.

The next morning when Michael came back from the hospital nursery, his penis was wrapped in gauze. His face was red and puffy from crying.

"Keep it coated with Vaseline," the nurse said. "Keep urine off the gauze. Change the gauze at every diaper change."

Bill saw the penis and said, "Holy shit, it looks bad."

In Michael's little crib, there was a baggie stuffed with a brown wad of paper towel. "That's for you," the nurse said. "For your baby book."

Jane didn't open the baggie in the hospital. She didn't tell Bill about it, either. When she got home to the apartment, she put the baggie in the top drawer of Michael's dresser and left it there.

Many weeks later, she was rinsing bottles under the tap when she began to wonder how one gives back a foreskin. As a wedding gift? In some special manly version of a Hope Chest, along with K-Y Jelly and a naked photo of his high school girlfriend? "Sorry we took this from you, son. It's yours again now."

No, Michael's penis had healed by then, and the little piece of skin had surely dried up. Any pleasure it might have given him was gone, and her pleasure in it was gone, too.

She waited until a day with a stiff breeze to open up the apartment window. She took the baggie from the drawer and unwrapped it carefully.

Inside the wad of hospital-grade brown paper towel was a bloody little piece of skin, dried and hardening around the edges. She held the little scab of flesh gingerly between her thumb and forefinger. She studied it.

"Let it go," she told herself. "Just let it go."

She stuck her arm out the window and opened her fisted hand.

As she was looking at her palm, her focus shifted. The people on the sidewalk below were pointing to some spot above her head. Without thinking, she turned her head to look. That's when the little piece of skin lifted up on the breeze and took flight.

She reached out to grab it, a moment too late.


Erica Orloff said...

Ms. Flanigan has outdone herself.


Jude Hardin said...

I would hate to be the one on the street who gets it in the eye, LOL.

Nice job, E. Flanigan.

LurkerMonkey said...

One of the things I liked about this story is that it has all the pieces of a story, meaning a beginning, middle and end. A conflict is introduced, confronted, and resolved. This is particularly hard to do in short fiction, but it's done here -- and underneath the simple story, it has something to say about the choices parents have to make that irrevocably affect their children, and the uncertainty of making those kinds of choices, and even about the loss of children as they grow into adults. So, yeah, I thought there was a lot to like here ...

LurkerMonkey said...


That's funny. "Look out! It's raining medical waste!"

Erica Orloff said...

I also want to say as a mother of two sons, that on an emotional level, this really resonated as well. Bravo! I thought this was terrific.


Mark Terry said...

Nicely done.

Melanie Avila said...

I really liked this. While we don't have kids yet, we have had the circumcision conversation and this put a whole new spin on it.

I was appalled when the next morning the baby was all bandaged up -- I felt like no one listened to the mother -- so well done getting an emotional reaction out of your audience!

E. Flanigan said...

Thanks for reading it! I haven't written any fiction in something like 15 years, and writing this was like running into an old friend I haven't seen in a while.

I'm looking forward to each person's take on that prompt .... It's sort of like a Rorschach test, isn't it? What each person sees in the photo? Maybe this exercise would make a good speed-dating activity. Or not ....

Melanie Avila said...

I hope not! Mine is a little out there for me...