Maternal Instinct

       I was just about to ask Joshua for a divorce when he stepped in pig shit.  It might have been funny if I hadn’t stepped in the actual pig.  Ugh.

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       Another huge fight about having children last week. So bad this time that we didn’t acknowledge each other’s existence for at least twenty-four hours (this was perpetuated by me, mostly). We probably should have hashed this business out before we got married, much less five years into the whole ordeal. It really is the biggest point of contention in any legal union. He wanted the 2.5 kids, and I wanted a big, fat, no-way-I-was-budging-on-this zero. Sure, we would have probably made some good looking babies. Joshua’s about two or three chisels shy of being a male model and I’ve been compared to Famke Janssen on my good days. And it’s undeniable we both have the smart genes. Joshua’s a corporate attorney and I’m a pediatric assistant. I know, I know. I get the irony. It’s not that I don’t like kids. In fact, I really do—other people’s kids. Spending those precious moments helping kids stay healthy is actually quite rewarding overall. But the important distinction is that I don’t have to take any of them home with me. And I also love getting to play the part of Cool Aunt when my sister Sarah actually gets her lazy butt out of Anaheim to come visit us every year or so. My nephew is a real treat. But all I have to do is buy him the latest not-too-violent video game for his Xbox and he loves me to death. Done and done. No mess to ever have to clean up. He’ll never resent me for trying to raise him properly or whatever other pubescent excuse kids come up with these days to hate their parents.
       So kids are not in the cards for us; my career comes first. Daddy didn’t shell out thousands for my college for nothing. Modern woman. Yadda yadda yadda. I’m not apologizing for my independence. Not to Joshua or anyone else.
       There’s a little glimmer of a darker side to our marital communication. Joshua’s never laid a violent finger on me and I feel confident that he never would (I’d be the first to admit I’ve probably even deserved it once or twice), but the tongue is often mightier than the fist. He certainly has a knack for coming up with (mostly) inaccurate, but very effective insults to brighten up my day.
       Yeah, he’s got quite the affectionate lexicon. But he wasn’t always that way. He could be conditionally sweet, bringing me flowers after I’d complained about never getting any for weeks, or buying a really expensive computer gadget for “me,” claiming it was a gift for “us,” but he’d be the only one to ever use it. Sometimes he’d accidentally get it right and plan a picnic at Tanner Springs Park with homemade club sandwiches and some White Zin, and we’d actually have some fun; it would be like a real, legitimate marriage. No goading from me to convince Joshua to get a vasectomy (not that it ever would have worked). No dreamy-eyed wanna-be daddy looks from him. Just the two of us being sorta romantic. Planning our united lives to battle against the rest of the world.
       Usually our time spent together wasn’t so storybook. It mostly consisted of bickering voices with ears sealed to reason on both sides.
       “Kids would just be a nuisance,” I’d say. “Without them, we’ll never have anything that ties us down. The possibilities are endless.”
       “But, Shivers—” he’d reply. He always called me “Shivers” even though it was clear that it irked me. As if Shivaun wasn’t a nice enough name that he couldn’t resist making it sound like I was a midnight movie program hosted by Elvira. “But, Shivers—I make enough money that you don’t even need to work and you can just stay home with our children. I’ll support us.”
       My gorge would always rise when he made comments like that. He just never understood that I needed to be successful on my own terms, that I was working because I wanted to forge my own path in the world. Our marriage would only be able to prosper if our respective successes could coexist. Kids were the hugest liability to toss into the mix.
       Special moments like those picnics were few and far between these days. Somehow we were able to get two days in a row scheduled off together for the first time in about a year and some change, so Joshua suggested this “remote” camping trip to Tillamook State Forest. It was a nice try—B+ for effort. Joshua knows I have an affinity for nature so he likes to make the boo-boo all better by being outdoorsy. Worked better when we were just dating. At the same time, at least he was trying. The fact that it was a dispersed camping trip was a bonus, since I’m definitely not adverse to roughing it. Some of my girlfriends had husbands that often ignored them. Some would have been better off if their husbands always ignored them.
       And it’s tough to come to this point of wanting to end the marriage. Daddy was already unhappy about me marrying a barely-practicing Lutheran instead of a “nice Jewish boy,” but he gave his blessing anyways. I don’t want to have to face him when it comes out that this relationship is heading to the shitter. It’s just so terminal. Plus, our wedding wasn’t exactly free, and it all came out of Daddy’s pocket. It totally blows to have to contemplate which guilt would weigh heavier on me.
       But then here we were on our special trip that was nothing more than a waterproof bandaid and here was this poor dead piggy smeared across the forest. Blood almost meticulously splattered on the ground like a Rorschach test. Offal in the bushes. Head lying askew near a Douglas fir. Just surreal, almost abstract butchery. A strong drizzle was coming from the sky, naturally. The mess became even more gooey. I was wearing my brand new Timberlands, too. Ugh.
       “What the hell did this?” Joshua was incredulous. He had moved a few feet away from the murder scene and had taken off his shoe, attempting to smear the fecal matter onto a nearby tree. “Shitshitshit.” I wasn’t sure if he was turning this experience into a crackpot mantra or simply cursing.
       I was doing my best not to scream. Not in a weak woman sort of way. I mean, sure it was disgusting, disturbing, sad. It’s more that I was frustrated by this distraction. I had finally mustered up the courage to confront Joshua about ending our union, and now we had to deal with, what…a bear or something? And why the hell was there a pig in the Tillamook anyways? This was just too much to even remotely want to deal with.

       It was around that point that I heard some chattering voices far off in the distance. At the time I probably dismissed it as my mind playing tricks on me, or maybe thought it was some other campers that just happened to be on a similar path as ours (fat chance on that one, since Joshua fancied himself quite the woodsman, so we were on our way to a location a couple of miles away from any semblance of a main trail). I removed myself from the pile of pig remnants I was standing in and huffed away, just so I could put some distance between myself and Joshua.
       “Shivers, where are you going?”
       That was the breaking point that finally got me to break out my banshee wail. I turned around and gave Joshua a don’t-fuck-with-me stare, and he countered that with a look on his face like a grandmother who just asked your opinion about an obviously shitty batch of homemade brownies.
       Out of the corner of my eye I saw some movement at the top of the hill just ahead of us, and decided to ignore it for reasons I’m still not sure of. Again, seemed harmless enough at the time. Joshua was silent for a few moments before meowing his attempted apology.
       “Sorry babe…this wasn’t exactly part of the plan.”
       “Well, babe, neither was that.” I pointed to the hill where I had just seen the movement, and there stood about a dozen basically-nude Amazonian rejects, hooting and hollering, hopping up and down like idiots, their near-buxom breasts beating a tribal cadence on their bodies. I had about enough time to utter a quiet “What the fuck?” before someone came from behind us and tackled Joshua and I fainted. What can I say? Sometimes even a strong woman falls prey to cliché.

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       When I came to, it was night. Small blue flames flickered from a fire pit. Must have been some sort of ether-laced dart that made me pass out…who knows? I was sitting in some makeshift throne built with a combination of clay and sticks (despite how it sounds, it actually wasn’t the worst seat I’d managed to rest my tush on over the years). I wasn’t bound or restricted in any way, but I didn’t really think I was in any sort of position to escape easily either.
       Once my head was more or less fully cleared, I was able to get a closer look at the Ooga-Booga women, as I later affectionately dubbed them in my head due to their indecipherable chanting.
       Hey, the only other language aside from English that I’m even moderately familiar with is Hebrew, and that’s pushing it. Sue me.
       The ladies were arguably attractive at a quick glance, with legs that lasted for miles and athletic bodies (I guess chasing down campers keeps a girl in shape). There was one slight deterrent to keep them off the cover of Vogue Italia, though: they were in need of a bit of a waxing, to put it lightly. I’m not talking a granola girl’s refusal to shave her underarms or a small case of la femme moustache; these ladies were geared up naturally for some brisk weather with what appeared to be light brown fur growing from their bodies. From afar it looked like they might have been adorned with the pelts of some of the unfortunate creatures they had successfully hunted, but up close I realized it was au naturel. Guess they didn’t have access to Nair out here.
       The Ooga-Booga women had formed a semi-circle around a stripped-naked Joshua, his hands bound in rope above his head, his mouth gagged by a piece of passion fruit. His nudity was almost shocking; we hadn’t bumped uglies in about six months, sex cancelled due to lack of interest. I’d never seen his little thingy so shriveled up before, like a timid little turtle head (uncircumcised, of course…ugh). Not like I was exactly calm at that moment, but I was still tempted to giggle at that. I never realized until that moment that I could be so sadistic in the face of danger.
       Two of the Oogas were carrying this phallus-shaped stone about the size of a mutant cucumber and the color of a cheap Maybelline knock-off powder. It was glistening. I swear I saw it moving too, but that wouldn’t make any sense, would it? Not that any of the rest of this situation did. Funny how the mind can rationalize its thoughts so indiscriminately.
       You can probably guess where they intended to insert this stone. And they did. I screamed, Joshua did much louder (well, in theory he did since his voice was muffled by the fruit). This went on for maybe five minutes. The clock sort of slows down during a rape, so it’s really hard to say. Twisted pleasure, horror, all interchangeable at this point. Let’s leave it at that.
       Two different Ooga-Boogas carried the stone away, maybe to clean it off in a nearby stream? The rest of the tribe turned to me and bowed, which made me clench a little, thinking my time as Poser Queen was nearing its end. But then half of them started up with an awkward epileptic dance, while the rest of them stood and smiled at me. Despite the darkness, they were now in close proximity to me so I could see their faces pretty clearly. That was when I noticed a second list of physical impairments that would certainly keep any would-be suitors away: their teeth were filed down into deformed black arrowheads, their tongues cut into snake-forks, their lips clown-painted with blood. Guess the mystery of the eviscerated piggy was officially solved.
       Joshua could barely lift his head to look at me sitting so smugly at my throne. I started to feel guilty and wondered if I should try some sort of heroic measure, but then I started wondering if I could learn to like this barely-royal treatment. I looked back at him and shrugged. His eyes just became glassy. What neither of us expected was that Joshua’s belly would start to grow soon after the violation, that tiny fists would be pumping beneath his elastic skin. I don’t think Joshua had any more strength to scream at this point. He may have even passed out. Even though I still didn’t believe what I was seeing (we’ll always revert to hoping the “it was all just a dream” cliché is the reality when it’s convenient to our needs, won’t we?), but I started wondering about the exit point of this eager birth. That kidney stone he passed a couple of years ago was going to seem like a decent blowjob compared to this.
       A miracle? Hardly.
       Be careful what you wish for, babe.

Chad Stroup

Chad Stroup is currently pursuing his MFA in Fiction at San Diego State University. His work has recently been featured in the San Diego Poetry Annual, Linguistic Erosion, and Educe Journal, and he will have a story in an upcoming anthology called Enter at Your Own Risk: Fires and Phantoms from Firbolg Publishing. He also runs a blog called Subvertbia, which showcases some of his short fiction and poetry.

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