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  The Birth
 

 

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December 15 1928 – Erik is born.

Shallow water, hugging the riverbank, forms a thin crust of ice around the edges. I sense disquiet in the fall’s thunder. The first dusting of snow melts. Soon will come the great event of my child’s birth. Local residents will brag about his being born in Contoga Village. Two days ago Max left for New York City to participate in a three-days-long chess tournament. Marion will help me through the birth. My water broke two hours ago. Pressure in my back intensifies.
     
Hawkey arrives. Marion stands over me. My screams come as if from far away. She raises my knees, spreads them, and stands between my splayed legs.
      “Squeeze, Galena. Push.”
      I writhe and cry out.
      “Get Max,” I scream.
      “Push,” she says.
      “God help us,” Hawkey says.
       I’m aware of the odor I remember from when I’m having periods.
       Marion keeps yelling.
       “Breathe fast, Honey. Push.”
        The pain becomes more intolerable with each contraction. I want to stop pushing but Marion keeps yelling at me. After a long wave of pain, the baby cries. Marion bends over me. In her arms, with the umbilical cord dangling, the baby thrashes, cries. I bite the cord. Marion ties it. She wipes the infant’s face, wraps it in a clean blanket. Cradles it in my arm.
        “A boy. Full head a jet black hair,” she says. “I remember you said to name him Erik.”
        I say. “Oh Marion. I love you.”
        “Yer birth tube was too tight,” she says. “I got scared you was gonna die. Besides I ain’t no midwife.”
         She attends my torn vulva, blots it, dresses the opening with clean gauze and applies pressure.
         She says, “More blood. If I can’t stop it, you still might die. I wish I knew what to do.”
         I study the baby’s face. Drop it on the bed. Turn my back to it.
        “For Christ’s sake, Marion. Get rid of it.”
        “What ails you?” she says.
        “Except for the black hair, it’s the image of Steve Bragg,” I say. “Look at the ears, eyes close together. I hate it. A baby from hell.” I turn to Hawkey.
        “Take it to the river. Drown it.”
        “This ain’t the way you think.” Marion says. “Besides Max will leave you for whackin’ his baby. What will you do without Max? Look at the kid. He’s half yours.”
        “No. Not Max’s either. Max didn’t touch me, ever. Think he’d care?”
        “He might,” Marion says. “Just cause he’s a kind man.”
        Hawkey, carrying the baby, leaves the house, followed by Marion. I watch out the window beside the bed. He crosses the road, Squats at the river’s edge. Holds the baby above the water. Marion kicks and punches him from behind. Wrests the baby from him. I stagger out to the porch. Lean on the corner post. Marion carries the baby back. Lays it on the bed. I lie down beside the kid, Erik. Sunlight shines in through the open curtains, lighting his face.
        Hawkey comes in.
        “I didn’t mean to harm the child. Only to frighten Galena to her senses.”

 

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