Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
A Thistle Harvest

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I'm afraid you'll wake and it'll start over, the awful noise of you not trusting me, the mess of our small war.

I'm so tired a transfusion of hot tar might be running through my veins in place of blood. These night assaults are the worst. The room smells scorched but I'm afraid to open a window in case of sudden chills. Advice has made a coward out of me; I am terrorized by well-meaning mummery. Terrorized, too, by you. The battery of sound is made worse by the sporadic silences. Your arsenal, it seems, is inexhaustible.
Under the t-shirt you've pebble-dashed so proficiently, I am made of aches. They advance up the backs of both legs, camp at the base of my spine. When you are quiet, I crow, victory a hollow spot under my sternum where love once lived.

At the window, I've put up the blackout, just as they advised. The dark in the room is ruined by the glare and beam from bottles, boxes of baby wipes. Worse - the sudden whites of your eyes as you wake.

You stir in my arms. I stiffen reflexively. Your face, open for an instant, is bland and smooth as milk. Then you get me in your sights and cock your head, your small nose becoming a knuckle, turning red as the sound starts up.

Wind, they tell me. Colic.

I jump under the impact, each flinch involuntary, pulled like a burr from beneath my skin. I hold you close, rock you, soothe you. You fling a live volley of yells into my face. My eyes start to stream. My nipples scramble distress signals to my brain - feed him! Feed him!

You have my whole body under siege.

Just as suddenly, you are quiet, flopping down in my arms, making wet movements with your mouth. I see you wince and know that rawness is a wound which reaches all the way into your lungs. You've yelled yourself hoarse, and it hurts.

'Hush,' I say. 'Hush.'

When, miraculously, you do, I am limp with gratitude.

You were a Spring baby, stormed your way through Summer to this Fall. The Spanish have a saying: in every good harvest you must expect a few thistles. We seem to have nothing but thistles, you and I.

'Hush. Hush.'

It's quiet now; we're holding our breath. Your heartbeat is so close it stumbles into my chest and patters there, running rings around mine. Your lips shape an unguarded smile.

All my defenses are breached, a chip here, a chink there, like green grass pushing through the parched grey of pavement.

You find me a contented casualty, tender in defeat. I am like the first leaf from the tree, turning over and over in fretful, ecstatic freefall.


Sarah Hilary won the Fish Historical-Crime Contest with “Fall River, August 1892,” and has two stories in the Fish Anthology 2008. She was a highly commended runner-up in the Biscuit Short Story Contest 2008. MO: Crimes of Practice, the Crime Writers’ Association anthology, features Sarah’s story, “One Last Pick-Up.” Her work appears in Smokelong Quarterly, Literary Fever, Every Day Fiction, Ranfurly Review and Zygote in my Coffee. Sarah blogs at sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com.


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