The steam rises, it’s a choir rubbing up my fat belly, then swirling to a hallelujah at the ceiling. Thirty-six weeks. I’m an island of flesh in this clawfoot tub. The water laps at me each time I shift, topsy-turvy, then settling flat, somber again.
The storm outside thunders down in heaving splats, polka-dotting the concrete, seeping in somewhere I’m sure. Water, water, water. Heat and musk and love. That’s what put me here in the first place.
What I’d wanted was a kitten, alone in the big, old house, as it creaked and talked back. My green chair plump and prim. I’d wanted a kitten and I got a baby. That’s the truth. It’s mine or my daughter’s. It’s hard to remember the timeline when you’re kept in like this, when the rain never stops, when you’re sure you’ve loved her forever, even if she hasn’t been born yet.
The water ripples. The room smells of frankincense. The rain does not relent. There’s a cat crying in the night, soft and soggy. It’s a slinky wail, then the tick-thump of the cat door as it slinks in. A spring breeze, rustling leaves. The shake of water from fur. The rattle of bell on collar.
I hold my breath. Sink down. The cat jumps to stalk the tub’s rim—its tail a flag of surrender, its belly hanging low. Around and around it goes.
The baby settles inside me. Out there is the vanishing world, everyone penned in by a big fat circle.
The truth is, this water is growing cold.
The truth is, I wanted a kitten and my mother, she always said no.
Sherrie Flick is the author of a novel and two short story collections, Whiskey, Etc. and Thank Your Lucky Stars. Her work appears in many anthologies and journals, including New Sudden Fiction, Flash Fiction Forward, and New Micro, as well as Ploughshares and New World Writing. She is senior editor for SmokeLong Quarterly, series editor for The Best Small Fictions 2018, and co-editor for Flash Fiction America, forthcoming from Norton in 2022.