Sunday, October 7, 2018

Drug Machine Mothers

Drug Machine Mothers

by
Jennifer S. Chesler

The mothers hate her with a push like labor, and then finally wet bloody shit, a slit perineum they blame her for. You made us shit on the table, our feces smells like decaying deer. Never do the mothers not blame their premature daughter. When they are alone in the hospital, they laugh, furiously first, then subdued, but still with the violence of furiously. They get their baby from her incubator. Aw, says one of the women. Then ‘aw’ in a chorus behind her, one mother holding a candle with a ring of paper around the base to catch the falling wax. One trades the baby for the candle. The woman holding the candle before crushes the baby’s hands so that the bones are broken. It cries raucously. She sticks gauze from between her legs in its mouth. After she passes the baby off to the next mother, that mother breaks the baby’s ankle bones so that hopefully it will be crippled there too. When she passes it to the next mother, the mother murmurs, it’s so broken, boo hoo. Shut up, a friend says, a night nurse might come by. What difference does speech make when the curtain is open, she asks. You’ve always been a whore, says the friend. But I’m not a prostitute, the original speaker says. Doesn’t matter, the accuser says, shoving her into the mother breaking the baby’s elbows. The mother handed the candle takes the baby again. She says, I will name her after the antipsychotic Saphris; that’s why she has all the birth defects; she might even be dead right now. Goddammit, Mildred, I wish you’d shut up about our condition; the baby is fine, just a little crushed looking. Okay, okay, Mildred concedes, she is crushed looking from her face being pressed against our bladder in the womb. Mildred snaps the neck of the baby, takes the gauze out of the mouth and puts the newborn back into its incubator. The mothers walk down the corridor, change into their street clothes and walk down 10th Avenue. Mildred is ahead. She trips and her face falls on a grate in the sidewalk. Lenny steps on her head, then kicks it a few times. Fucking whore, Lenny says. Mildred doesn’t move. They rifle through her purse and find antipsychotic tablets, a wallet, lipstick and keys. They take the wallet and move on, Hey, there’s $500 in here; what good luck, Lenny says. Let’s split it all ways, says the one who last kicked Mildred, Nell, Mildred says, knowing Nell is greedy. I pushed more than anyone, so the cash is mine, says Nell. She grabs the wad and takes a cab to a 24-hour laundromat with a good drug machine. She buys a sedating powder and shoots up in the bathroom. The remaining mothers find her. They break open the stall and feel around her clothes for the rest of the money. It’s in her purse though. When they have it, Lenny steals it and goes to another drug machine in Alphabet City. She buys the same sedating powder before the other mothers come at breakneck speed. I’ve got to piss; good thing we’re in a stall, Lenny says to the remaining two mothers. Yeah, haha, one says. Lenny lifts her skirt, pushes her underwear to the side and pisses on Nell’s face. Nell sputters awake, spitting the urine out from between her lips. Boo hoo, an unnamed mother says and spits in her eyes. Nell blinks and wipes off her face. The women are gone by now. One of them wants a new baby.