From Vol. 9: “A Miniature Tale of Motherhood,” a short story by Oliver Zarandi

My children are cruel and look like goblins. Every day they take something away from me and I don’t ask for anything in return.

I asked them this morning, “What do you want for lunch?”

“Your breasts,” they said.

So they had them. They suckled my teats, one apiece, and sucked them dry. No more milk. And then they took turns chewing them off.

“I’d like those,” I said. “I’m single. Men are fickle beasts, children, and find two breasts attractive, one less so and none a travesty.”

They said nothing because they were young children, little Ronald and Maisy, but they shot me with devilish smiles nonetheless.

And then years later, there was nothing but growth. The children grew larger day by day and started to outgrow rooms and houses. I was married to another man at this time, Thomas, and wanted desperately to make things work.

“The children are too large for this place,” I told him.

“Then we must uproot once more,” he said. And so we did. We went to a larger house in the countryside where my son and daughter could easily fit in rooms.

They grew to be spotted beasts in their teenage years and they would shed skin all over the house.

“Tidy up,” they would say and I did. I did everything I could to keep the house in order. They would cry tears that drowned several household animals. They shed enough skin that we used it as bedding for our horses. When they popped spots, the pus would coat the room a delightful yellow.

By the time they were eighteen, I was altogether used up. I was a drink that had been sipped at and then refilled and sipped at and refilled. I was broken crockery. I was a wedding dress with holes in it. I was Miss Havisham’s dining table.

I would sit in the sitting room, for that is what it’s there for, and tell Thomas how sore my legs were. He didn’t hear me, though, because my breasts had been chewed off in my youth. And there I was, then, staring at my withered legs and arms and torso and, just to compound this, I had a hand mirror where I could stare into my hollowed out face and comment upon it in negative, cruel ways.

My husband died. It was a tragedy, yes, and my children came to the funeral with me. It was raining that day and I cried so much that the tears ran hard down my cheeks, hard enough to create rivulets in my skin.

My children could not cry. “Mother, lend us your tears,” said Maisy. She was a giant now and I spoke only to her shins. Ronald was even taller, his head covered by tree leaves.

“Here they are, children,” I said, cupping my hands and handing them tears, all my grief for my husband passed onto them.

And so they cried and then they left. I didn’t speak to them for many years and it must be said that they didn’t ask anything of me. But I called them. I called them every day. I left messages. I wondered what had become of them. Ronald had surely never fathered children, considering how monstrously ugly he was and perhaps due to the size of his genitals, which now needed an entire house to themselves. And maybe Maisy was a mother herself now, but who would climb the ladder to her giant vagina? Nobody, I imagined.

I sat there in the large country house, my legs two tiny cocktail sticks. I crawled to bed every night. I could have stayed bedbound, but I didn’t. I made a point of this. I read books and ate simple food from my garden. I dug my hands in the soil and dragged up raw potatoes and carrots. I ate worms. I ate snails.

But today, things took a turn for the unexpected.

My hair is now gray and barely covers my scalp. I am a body that has tiny rivers, deep and wide, running down it. I sit there naked and see my giant children approaching, wondering what they are going to take from me now. They walk straight towards the house and are as tall and wanting as ever. I welcome them with open arms.

Oliver Zarandi is a writer, most recently of Soft Fruit in the Sun (Hexus Press, 2019).

Image: “girl with empty baby carriage,” Helen Levitt, catalogue.swangalleries.com

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