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.