She cups his head in her hand, downy-soft like velvet from the dryer. You don’t put velvet in the dryer, she says and the wind outside knocks over a garbage can. It rattles along pavement, rhythmless and disruptive. We should have bought a quiet plastic bin. Plastic is bad for the environment. She leaves the world to this tiny person. Hand on head, thumb on chin, palm on chest. Everything about him fits in these five digits, she thinks, but she feels nothing. The wind outside whooshes through the oak and the light flickers. Tomorrow branches will lie dead on the ground and the garbage can will be in the neighbor’s yard. He will knock four times, then set it on the porch after she opens the door. Your garbage can was in my yard again, he will say, and she will say thank you, milk dribbling from her breasts, acne blistering her chin. This tiny person will cry. She will think, What if I followed the neighbor home? Tim? No, Tom. Walked in his shadow, silent and unnoticed. Entered the door behind him and sat at his table while he ate Shredded Wheat. What if she breathed in his smell — yesterday’s shirt, a whiff of car grease, brown sugar. What if she read the sports section over his shoulder. I hate sports. What if she took his milky spoon and slid it down her throat, gagging and choking and he didn’t notice. What if she carved out her navel, where life connects, and dug along the snaking root to the ends of the earth. Where life connects. What if she pulled out all the tiny people who forage and suck, a string of them from inside her, clusters like grapes. I have no world to leave them. She will count their tiny heads. She will name each one and forget them. She will sit with Tom or Tim as the world evaporates.
Angie Ellis lives on Vancouver Island in Canada. She is working on her first novel, a portion of which has been published with Narrative Magazine. You can find her stories in Pithead Chapel, Passages North, Agnes and True, Juked, Flash Fiction Online, and others. For more information, visit her at www.angieelliswriter.com.