Marsha McSpadden

Under the bruise of night, while the baby shallow sleeps, I keep nightwatch on the patio. Turning regrets under with a spade sharp as day. Trelising. Clipping. Snipping. Deadheading in the dead of night. My fingers fumble and fret. Give my nerves a rest.

From a bed of nothing, a splatter of white. Moonflower. Midnight candy. Moon frolic. Night glad. Slow going, never blooming cereus.

Fragile fists of bone rising in the dark.
Listen. All of the nightnoise silent.
The moon swollen and lonely.

In the daylight, I swim the glow of cable news. The baby whimpers and whines. Not understanding that endless scroll of sadness:

Somewhere, a shooting. The whole town bleeds. The earth shakes and waters race and fires roll into canyons. Mamas drowning babies cause God whispered to them. Or demons came to do it. Kids doped up and screwing and tying one another to railroad tracks. Everyone on suicide watch.

People say I’m crazy, bring a baby to this world. Maybe there’s truth there. So small and helpless. Wanting. Walk the shine off the floor bouncing and shushing. Waiting for something Late Breaking.

Nothing new. Not from around here.
Just that empty chair.
Squint hard. See the teethmarked scar.

I call and call but the doctor won’t see me. Says I make him nervous. His voice crackles through the phone. The best medicine, he says, a living thing.

But the wolves—
No, he says. There are no wolves.
But the baby—
The line goes cold.
Feel them out there. Burning eyes. Biding time.

Night after night I’m scratching for peace among the sprouts. Prescription prescribed. Keep those howling thoughts at bay. I sink my nose into the blooms and float inside the strangled sweetness.

Proud of myself for not breaking the baby.

Man in Georgia took his own fiveyearold. Left the severed head in the mailbox. A love letter for the missus. Memphis hookers sliced into sandwich meat and tied up in trashbags. Hella lot of unfit out there. Pressing and prowling.

In their hunger, they grow bold.
The screen door rattles with their breath.
The weatherlady stares at me. Forecast forgotten. Nerves ajangle like a sack of teeth.
Smell the stink of their fur.
The baby squirms and cries.

Under my feet, the earth whistles. I rip vines from the ground like secrets. Wait for him to rise out of the dirt dimpled with pawprints. My fingers bleed into thankless tasks.

Somewhere someone sleeps. Beneath the eye of the moon gouged out.
But not here. It’s wicked and wild.

Beyond the tissue terrace, in the brambles, where nature tangles, the wolves circle and scream. Coming for the baby. Coming to carry him away. Just like his father.
The crying. Constant. Howling. Ferocious and free.

The baby monitor in the chair. Dirtcaked but calm. Shake shake shake. Just to make sure. Those wailing red dots, just spots of clay. Dead to the world.

They advance. Cracking and scratching, closing the gap. Wanting to uproot all I’ve done. Gobble it gone.

My tiny shovel spears the dirt. Breaks like skin.
Beasts beware.
This bitch don’t run.

Marsha McSpadden lives and writes in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Other short work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Matchbook, NANO Fiction, and Shenandoah.