Light Bulb Dancing [Beth Sherman]

The fetus only spoke to us in the early morning hours when the apartment was dead quiet. This was understandable. It was, after all, in a vulnerable position – completely at the mercy of Brianna’s whims.

“Bicycle teapot,” it said.

“Hat starlight fish.”

Never more than two or three words at a time.

I wrote everything down so we wouldn’t forget.

Brianna wanted to call CNN. She figured maybe they’d pay to get Jake Tapper over here to have viewers listen in. We’d made a science-based, evidence-based discovery and there should be some compensation involved. I disagreed strenuously. No amount of money could compensate for lost privacy, although as Brianna pointed out, babies were expensive as shit.

“What should we name it?” I asked.

“Gender is a societal construction,” Brianna replied. She’d been a doctoral candidate in English before the government decided higher education was an unnecessary entitlement and cut her program’s funding.

“Still, we should have some possibilities ready. What do you think of Delilah or Aaron?”

“Too Biblical. Besides, we need a neutral name. In case the baby is transgender.”

“Light bulb dancing,” said the fetus. It had a low, raspy voice that sounded like broken gravel.

We were lying in the baby’s area – one corner of the living room that we’d painted yellow and decorated with a stuffed caterpillar, blocks and a diversity of plants.

I put my ear on Brianna’s stomach.

“What do you think it’s trying to tell us?”

Her eyes glittered oddly. “That it’s strange out here. That maybe baby doesn’t want to know what happens next.”

“Lovely child,” she whispered, stroking her belly. “You are so beautiful and smart.”

“Time blossom,” crooned the fetus.

“Exactly,” Brianna said and even in the dark I could see her smiling.

Beth Sherman is a Pushcart Prize nominee whose fiction has appeared in The Portland ReviewBlue Lyra ReviewSou’wester, and many other literary journals. She tweets at @bsherm36

Inspiration: What stood out to me most in the seven banned words was “fetus” and the idea took off from there. Each day of the Trump Administration feels surreal and I decided to write a story where the surreal becomes real.

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