written by Debbie Urbanski | illustrated by Brandon Reese
When K. was a baby, he did not laugh at us, or smile, or look into my eyes. In many ways we appeared unnecessary to him even then, except to take care of his immediate and physical needs, such as the changing of his diapers, and his feedings.
The only thing he laughed at was a plastic fan we bought from Ace Hardware on clearance because that summer was blistering. We moved the fan into his bedroom where it ran all day and all night. The fan made him flap his arms as if he believed he were a bird.
We hoped the existence of this fan would be proof that we could, someday, be good parents to this strange child. That’s the story we told ourselves.
While running over some exposed roots near a pond by my house, I fell and fractured the fifth finger of my left hand. “You will need a better story than that,” the doctor told me as he stroked my broken pinkie. “Better to say that you punched someone incorrectly.” So that is what I began to tell people.
The first week of wearing a cast, I became obsessed with thinking that the casting technician, a girl barely out of high school, had molded my hand wrong, with the fourth and fifth fingers angled down, and I wondered whether my hand would emerge from its cast permanently deformed. I began to see casting as a means of change, a means to hold the body in certain contortions until the body became something new. Uncomfortable images resulted from this line of thought: the technician, very clearly, casting someone’s once beautiful body into grotesque positions, breaking their bones first so they could be more easily bent. Or did she take a grotesque body and turn it beautiful? The technician spoke using only calming tones, and she used gentle touches to comfort the person whose body she was either ruining or remaking.
Certain doctors insist my son can change if I can throw away who I am and become a different mother — a better mother? — a mother who, in any case, is willing to cast her son into a different child. A better child?
The wind whips around the outside of the house. More specifically, the wind seizes the branches of trees on my neighbor’s property and forces them to move in ways they wouldn’t on their own. We are told to secure any loose objects outside. My husband used to take care of such tasks. There is a chance our deck umbrella might lift into the air and take flight. K. certainly would like to see that. He keeps asking when Mary Poppins will fly up clutching at her umbrella. I wouldn’t mind watching a woman fly into the air.
About the artists:
Brandon Reese likes to draw pictures. He likes to write stories too. Sometimes he does both together. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and son. On rare occasions, he leaves his studio and says hello to them.
Debbie Urbanski is a writer living in Syracuse, New York. Her stories have been published in The Sun, Nature, and The Kenyon Review. Currently she’s at work on a linked story collection concerning aliens and cults.