Latest Flash

Baby

A classic Gutter story, originally posted in 2012. Including what the editors said up here:

*Warning: Explicit Content* (Meaning read it and tell us what you think!)

Days as dark as thunderheads, blows that rain down and drown out your soul. When there's no way out, all you can do is bring in someone else to help weather the storm...
Baby by Spencer Hayes

Sometimes Dale hits me so hard the sting goes clear through to the other side of my body. I often think each blow’ll leave two bruises. He usually comes after me at night, keyed up on Yuengling, home from a poker game with his drinking buddies where he’s pissed away the better part of his paycheck.
He’s ticked off and anything’s an excuse for him to start bandaging his fist with cowhide. Dale lets me have it. When he finishes, still angry and flushed, he holds me down, turns me over on my knees and elbows, and gets behind me. Afterward, he offers up one of his broken-record apologies.
In the morning, he goes to work, and I go to the shower. Hell doesn’t make water hot enough to get the memory of his body out of my skin. I practice primal scream therapy. I rest my head against the tile and check my welts. Those mothers are blacker and bluer than storm clouds.
*
Everyone thinks they know what I should do. My mother, the police, my friends, the doctors and nurses. They feel embarrassed for me. Every time I show up in the ER to get this bone set or that cut stitched, they tell me to leave, get a restraining order, move, start over. How? How am I supposed to do those things when I feel like a fly swatted against a window, its insides running down the glass? They never say. And every time I threaten to leave him, Dale vows to kill me. I see his nose flare, his eyes narrow, and I know he isn’t lying.
So I put foundation over the scars, makeup on the bruises, hide them the best I can. I drink his poison and wait for him to die.
*
Our neighbor Sheila is pregnant. She’s one of the prettiest women I’ve ever seen—even with a potbelly. That’s when it hits me. A baby. A baby is what I need. Something, someone who’ll love me, call me mama.
I ask Dale about it. He says no. I think about yanking a pushpin out of the corkboard and pricking his entire pack of condoms, a single hole straight through the center of each reservoir. But he’d know.
*
I pay Sheila a visit. I bring cake. We sit in her kitchen. She makes tea. I ask where her husband is. Kevin’s at work. I ask how many weeks she is. Thirty, she says. Sex? A surprise. I ask if I can have her baby. She laughs, but stops when she sees I’m not. She says no. Of course it would be no.
I wrestle her to the ground. We grunt and snort. Air shoots out of our lungs. Fists meet kidneys. Knees collide with groins. I don’t want to hurt the baby. Yelps and cries, pulled hair, legs kicking out for a foothold. We writhe a little while longer, then Sheila’s on her feet and running.
She hoofs it to the bathroom. Unfamiliar with the layout, it takes me a minute to find her. I kick the door. It doesn’t give. Sheila screams. I kick again and again and again. The flimsy metal handle flies off and chips the wall.
I collar my hands around her throat and pinch the blood off to her head. Sheila’s face goes scarlet and quickly drains to blue. She crumples to the floor. I lift up her dress. Her stomach is taut, bloated. I could get a knife, some scissors, but time’s of the essence. I make do with the keys in my pocket.
I take them out and fan them in an arc. I rip through her skin and fat and muscle. I open her up like a package. Elbow-deep inside her. Chunks of meat on the floor. Urine and blood and fluid swirl. Sheila’s legs twitch and streak the mess. I snag a towel from the bar above, swaddle the baby in it. Sheila’s wound slurps and spews black cherry syrup in rhythm to her dying heart.
*
I hope Dale gets home soon. I’ve made a list of what we need at the store. I haven’t picked a name yet, but it’s hungry. 
Spencer Hayes lives and writes in Philadelphia. His stories have appeared in Bluestem Magazine, Word Riot, and The Adroit Journal.