2016
FLASH FICTION CONTEST
Honorable Mention
$25 Award

CIRCULATION

by Sara A. Lewis

There’s lots to do when you bleed out your baby. When you feel the jelly of it in your panties seeping out onto a brand new pair of Lululemon Enlighten Crops.

The first thing isn’t to call your partner and tell her it didn’t work. Again. The first thing isn’t to think about the doubled-over pain you ignored at breakfast. The first thing isn’t even to think about your loss. How in the next week it would have grown from the size of a grape to the size of a kumquat. How in about a month your it would have been a he or a she. The anniversary of fingernails. The mourning of lungs. That’s all later.

The actual first thing is to find a place to clean your baby off of yourself. You don’t plan to look too closely, because you don’t need to see what you already know.

You’re walking Oreo, your black and white border collie through town. A town that yesterday felt so delightfully devoid of clutter, but now has no safe place to offer you. You’re near the corner of Second Avenue and Maple where there’s a fancier version of a 7-11, a café, and the public library. You don’t want to do this in the Stop-In, even if they don’t make you check out a key. You don’t want to have to ask the hostess at the café to use the restroom and have her look at you like “Why didn’t you go before you left the house?” You’re not a child. You don’t want her to put that word on the tip of your brain.

So you tie Oreo up near the book deposit outside the library. You find the restroom and look for other shoes in that gap between the stalls and the floor. You’ll wait for the lady in brown leather Clarks to finish her business in the handicap stall. And when she opens the door you shuffle by so close to her that your shoulders graze. You wait inside the stall for her to wash up, but she doesn’t. She just walks right out.

When you see what a mess it is, you realize it’s going to be easiest to take your shoes off, then your pants, and just throw the panties away. You step back into your shoes and dart out bottomless to the bathroom sink to wet some paper towels. With bunched up underwear in one hand, you use the other to wipe yourself out, paying close attention to the red stains at the tops of your thighs. These are stubborn.

You wrap your soiled undies in toilet paper and rest them on the bar that runs along the side of the stall. You step out of your shoes again, then slide those compression pants back on. They feel weirdly cool around your ass with nothing between the nylon blend and your skin.

You lace up your trainers and you’re ready to go. You can’t go, though. Not yet. You sit right down on the toilet and look at the wadded up ball of baby on the handrail.

It occurs to you that you are about to be a woman who leaves her baby in a bathroom. You’re going to have to flush it down the toilet. Maybe leave it with the used pads and tampons. You’re obviously not the kind of person they talk about on the news. You know this. Intellectually. You know this.

You look over at that metal waste basket mounted on the wall. A string hovers just above it. The kind of string you’d pull on to open the shades, let some light in. You follow this string to a sign above telling you to pull if you need assistance.

This isn’t a decision you thought you’d be making today.

A voice blares from an overhead speaker, reverberating from all the metal pieces jutting from the tiled wall. “Will the owner of the white and black dogs please come to the front desk? Will the owner of the white and black dogs please come to the circulation desk?”

And you think dogs? But I tied up just the one.

This is the next thing.

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Sara A. Lewis is a doctoral candidate in fiction at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers. She received her MFA from Western Connecticut State University. She has been an Assistant Editor for the Mississippi Review, and is currently the Managing Editor of the Memorious blog and an editorial assistant for the magazine. Her work can be found in FORTH, Black & White, and elsewhere.