15 | genie gratto

woman with glass eye shot in good eye


When Moira came to, the blanket under her fingers had an unfamiliar weave. She raised one hand to her face, felt bandages over the place where she assumed her good eye should be. An IV tugged at her arm. Then she smelled Revlon Red. “Cindy?”

“Oh, honeycakes, you’re awake! How’d you know it was me?”
“My nose works.” Moira sensed a cloud of medication buffering her, and struggled to step out from behind it.

“Ha.” Cindy squeezed Moira’s hand. “I’d hug you, but it’s kind of hard to get around all those tubes and stuff.”

“What’s going on?”

Cindy sighed out her nose, then sat on the edge of the bed. “Honeycakes, you don’t remember what happened?” She took Moira’s hand in hers again and told Moira there was an accident. When Moira asked what kind of accident, Cindy said, well, Jake was cleaning his gun and it went off as she was bringing him some sweet tea.

“Oh my God. And he hit me?”

“Somehow the bullet grazed your eye,” Cindy said. She said the doctor wouldn’t know how much the eye was damaged until it heals from the surgery.

Moira felt hot anger in her stomach forging itself into a tight metal pellet. First one eye while they were in high school, and now the other. She wanted to cry, but she was too mad to even figure out whether she still could.

Cindy said Moira would be there at least another week, then would have to be checked every other day. “I’ll bring you,” she said. “I can take off work. It’s going to be OK, honeycakes.” She cleared her throat quickly and said Jake’s been waiting to see Moira. “He does feel bad about it, that’s for sure. He’s been over to my house three times since it happened, and he’s just a mess, all afraid of losing you for good this time.”

“Well, what does he expect? If I’m blind, it’s no one’s fault but his. Never has been anyone else’s fault. I’m starting to think maybe my parents were right.”

“It’s been an accident both times, Moira. You know it.”

“Damn unlucky, that Jake. Never mind me.”

“Well, you’re lucky they didn’t have any rooms to share,” Cindy said. Apparently they gave Moira her very own room because there weren’t any semi-private ones open. Cindy rustled in her bag, then spread something on Moira’s lap. “They wrote an article in the paper about you. Do you want me to read it to you?”


“The title is ‘Woman With Glass Eye Shot In Good Eye.’ It was at the top of the front page. Isn’t that amazing?” Moira heard Cindy’s nail coast down the lines of text. “They talk about how this was the second of two tragic accidents ‘inflicted on Mrs. Lewis by her husband.’ And then they go on to tell about the one in high school, and then they have a quote from Becky Marlin. Now, I don’t want you to be too upset, because you know how Becky is—she never thinks before she speaks. I’m sure she didn’t mean what she told the reporter.”

Moira knew Becky Marlin meant exactly what she said.

Cindy read on through Becky’s quote about how no one from their high school class understood why Moira married Jake Lewis in the first place after the other accident, and how it was too late for her to learn her lesson now. There was something else about how there was no way Moira would stay with Jake. By that point, Moira was realizing that the longer she lay there and listened to Cindy talk, the more clear-headed she was becoming.

“And there’s a great picture of you,” Cindy said. “It’s the one from high school graduation—and the whole office sent flowers. I think they’re right over there.”

“How would I know?”

“Oh,” Cindy said. “Sorry. Anyway, they’re beautiful, all different kinds of carnations and lilies and roses and stuff. Lots of baby’s breath.”

Moira reached a hand toward Cindy’s voice. “So will you help me?”

Cindy gabbed Moira’s hand. “Of course. What do you need, honeybear?”

“I have to leave Jake.”
Cindy was quiet for a minute. Moira could almost feel her thinking. “I don’t think you should leave him.”

“Why the hell not? Do you not understand the problem here? I can’t see. My husband may have caused me to lose both eyes. I’m not going to be able to work. I’m going to have to go on disability. I want to leave him and you’re acting like being written up in the newspaper is an honor? Don’t lose it on me, girl. I need your help.”

“But he does love you,” Cindy said. “And if you’d caused an accident, you’d want him to forgive you. He’s a good man—he’ll provide for you, and he loves you, and trust me, sometimes that’s what’s important. What if you had to live with Mike, who doesn’t always manage to get his paycheck home in one piece if he decides he’d rather drink a chunk of it? What if you had my kids who never give you a rest, no matter what’s happening, and who don’t understand how hard it is to get dinner on the table every night?”

For a moment, it was as if the metal ball had risen through her body and lodged in her throat. Kids. Moira always wanted nothing more than to have kids. But Jake had never been sure that was a good idea, kept saying they should wait until they had a little more money in the bank, so they’d put off having a family. And now she probably couldn’t take care of kids if she wanted to. She swallowed the ball back down to her belly. Now was not the time to think about that. “What I want to know is this. Did you come to this conclusion on your own, or has Jake been over there crying so much that you want to get rid of him? So you’re telling me to fix it because of that?”

“On my own, Moira. Quit being so stubborn.”

Moira lay silent. She hated it when people called her stubborn.

Cindy asked her to sleep on it. “If you still want to leave Jake, then I’ll do what I can to help you. But if I were you, I’d hold onto him. Otherwise you never know what you might end up with. You might end up all alone, with no one to take care of you—no man at all.” The bed shifted as Cindy stood up and said she’d be back the day after tomorrow, but that she’d call before then. “Are you going to be OK?”

“Dandy,” Moira said, and Cindy squeezed her hand one last time before leaving.


A short time later, the door opened again. “Moira, baby? Are you awake? Cindy said you were, but I wasn’t sure.”

Moira considered whether or not to answer Jake, and decided not to, at least for the moment. Might as well make him worry a little longer. His hand slid under hers on the bed, and his fingers wrapped around hers. Moira wondered for a moment why everyone felt compelled to hold her hand at a time like this.

“Honey, I was afraid maybe I’d killed you.” He breathed in deep, exhaled. She smelled hospital coffee on his breath. “There was an accident.”

She wanted to spit at him. “I’m not stupid. I know I’m not just in here for a little rest.”

“OK,” Jake said. “I shot you. In the good eye.”

The hot metal ball sent a burning, foul-tasting something up toward Moira’s mouth. Saliva poured around her tongue. “I think I’m going to throw up.”

She felt the cool of a plastic dish against her cheek. “Here, honey. Try getting it in here.” Jake guided her face with his free hand. “You’re all lined up. I’ll hold it here until you decide.”

Decide what? she started to say, before the something bubbled up and out her mouth. It wasn’t nearly as much as she thought it would be, just a small amount of acidy liquid that splashed into the dish, left her stomach heaving.

“They said this might happen,” he said. “That you might have some reaction to the drugs.”

“I’m having a reaction to you,” Moira sputtered into the bowl. “You shot my eye out.”

“I was just getting ready for hunting season.”

“You weren’t paying any damn attention, is what you were doing.”

Jake wiped her mouth with a Kleenex. “Are you done?”

“For now,” she said, and settled back against the pillows again.

“Your Mama left a message on the machine,” Jake said. “She saw something about us in her paper all the way down there in Orlando, and she was trying to fly back here.”

Moira tried to push herself up in bed a little bit. “Jake, are you saying you didn’t call and tell her about the accident?”

“No, because I didn’t want to talk to her.”

“Excuse me? You didn’t want to talk to her? It’s my mother, for God’s sake.”

Jake slammed a hand down on a table near her. “Damn it all to hell, Moira. What was I supposed to tell her?”
“You could have asked Cindy to call her if you were too chickenshit. Are you telling me you thought it would be better for her to find out from the newspaper?”

Moira could see her mother pulling random clothing items from her closet and stuffing them in her suitcase. She’d ask Thad, Moira’s stepfather, if she should take the truck or the car. She wouldn’t be able to hear his answer from downstairs, so she’d storm down to where he was watching the Golf Channel or reading Sports Illustrated. “That idiot is bound and determined to kill my daughter,” Lauralee probably said. “This is the kind of crap I simply do not need. You’d think he’d take better care of her.” Thad would pat the sofa, and Lauralee’d throw herself down next to him for a second, then bounce back up. “I have packing to do. I have to leave within the hour.”

“What are you going to do when you get there?” Thad doesn’t like the Lauralee who comes back from Virginia. She’s a different woman there—less aqua and coral, more Blue Ridge. Her accent roughs up again, and she comes back calling their beige Buick their VE-hick-el instead of their car.

“I might buy a gun and shoot his eye out. Jesus Christ.” Lauralee would stand there for a moment until her face crumpled. Thad would rise and hug her around the shoulders, maybe pull her head down onto his chest. “I can’t understand it,” she’d say. “I raised my girl to be smart. That and a little bit of luck and she’d be somewhere else by now. Instead she had to fall in love with that scum-sucking, careless-as-shit Jake Lewis. If you put his brain in a piss-ant, it’d walk backwards.”

Moira slammed her own hand down on the bed and winced at the jangling it sent through her head. “You’re truly an idiot. When Mama comes up from Florida, she’s liable to shoot you.”

“She’s always mad at me. That’s nothing new.”

Moira knew Thad certainly didn’t want Lauralee to come up from Florida. He’d hated Culpeper ever since Lauralee invited him there after they met on that cruise to Bermuda. He took good care of her mother, had helped her find herself again after Moira’s father died, but he had something against Virginia.

“Get me the phone,” Moira said. “I need to call down there.”

Jake pulled the phone onto the bed, dialed and handed her the receiver.

“Moira, you finally called us!” Thad said after he answered. “Are you OK? We’ve been so worried since we found out. Your mother is about to leave, but she is dying to talk to you. Hang on—“

“No. She’s probably madder than a hornet right now, and Jake has enough to do dealing with me to have to deal with her, too.” Moira told Thad to keep her mother from coming back to Culpeper, even though he protested that Lauralee would never listen to him.

“She’s angry that she didn’t know about this until she saw it in the paper,” he said.

“I don’t care. You know as well as I do that she’s going to pitch a hissy-fit all over this hospital and my husband. Fact is, the doctor thinks there’s a chance my eye is fine, and there’s nothing she can do. Fact is, it was an accident.”

The other end of the line hissed for a moment while Thad breathed and thought. “She’s your mother,” he said, finally. “I’m not sure I can keep her away.”

“Work with me,” Moira said. “I know you don’t have any abiding love for Culpeper, and if she comes up here again, she might decide to stay for awhile. Keep her there, and I promise to call with daily updates.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Thad said. And before he could try to put Lauralee on the phone, Moira waved the phone receiver in the air. Jake took it from her, and when his fingers brushed hers, she shuddered. She thought it was normal to hate your husband under these circumstances. Especially since she had lost the first eye to his stupid behavior, too.

They had still been in high school, out riding around one weekend, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys and looking for a good makeout spot, when he started to race some guy out on the four-lane and didn’t make the turn with the road. Jake walked away from the wreck, but Moira lost her right eye, and had to have skin grafts to repair the damage from the flying glass. At the time, her parents begged her to quit seeing him, but all that had done was drive them closer together, force her to sneak out of the house to meet him, to rub up against him in the F-150 he bought to replace the totaled car. When they graduated, he asked her to marry him, gave her a ring he bought at the Ames jewelry counter, a chip of a diamond in a setting that came with a matching wedding band. She said yes, of course, because she loved him. Or at least because he said he loved her. Or at least because he didn’t seem to care about her glass eye and the scars on the right side of her face.

When Moira came home from the hospital after the first accident, Cindy arrived with a packet of Algebra II assignments and welcome home cards from the flag squad. Moira agreed, reluctantly, to see her. She was still too miserable to look at the ragged line that grooved the left side of her face from two inches above her right eyebrow, through where that eye had been, and down to the midpoint between her right ear and her chin.

Cindy approached Moira too quickly for her to pull away, and she took Moira’s head in her hands. She told Moira that yes, it looked sort of bad, but that everyone was just glad she was alive. She touched the forehead skin around that end of the line, and Moira yelped, more from embarrassment than the shock that resonated deep in her cheekbone.

When Cindy asked whether Moira would have to wear a patch, Moira told her about the glass eye on order, how it would be four weeks before her eye socket could even be fitted, how the doctor determined she had a previously-undetected allergy to acrylic. Since that’s what they make prosthetic eyes out of now, Moira explained, she had to have the old-fashioned glass kind. After all, she was an old-fashioned girl. Then Moira had turned her head away when she told Cindy she was lucky. If the doctor was successful, she said, the glass eye might even move with the good eye. “And,” she said, “he says I’ll still be able to cry on that side.”

The heater in the hospital room came on with a rush, and Moira wondered if she would be so lucky this time around. “Is my eye gone?” she asked Jake. He didn’t reply, although she could hear him rustling around in his pocket. “Jake, is my eye completely gone?”

Still nothing but the rustling. He stuck receipts in his pockets and forgot about them, usually until she had washed them and they had disintegrated into white flecks all over their clothes. She could tell he was fingering one of them, trying to figure out what to say to her.

“If you don’t speak to me now, I’m going to get up out of this bed and make you sorry.”

“They don’t know.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

He said he thought her eye was still there, but that they didn’t know if she’d be able to keep it. “They have to leave the bandages on it for a long time to see if it will heal on its own,” he said. The rustling sound got faster as he admitted he wasn’t really sure what kind of surgery they’d done on it, that the doctor had told him so much information that he couldn’t remember it all.

“What day is it?”


“But you were cleaning your gun on Sunday afternoon!”

“You were out for a couple of days,” he said. They had you pretty drugged up.”

Days had slipped away without her even knowing. Jake had shot her in the eye and stolen time from her. “Why aren’t you in prison? You should be in prison for shooting your own wife.”

“Come on, Moira,” Jake said. “It was an accident.” Moira hated it when he got whiny. “You can’t say stuff like that.”

“Why the hell not? You shot my eye out.”

“Quit! Quit saying that!”

“It’s true and you know it.”

Jake sniffled. Moira tried to summon sympathy for him. She knew he was sorry for what he had done, but she found herself completely unable to care. “Get the hell out of here,” she said. “I have work to do.”

“Work? You can’t see anything.”

“I have thinking work to do. I have to figure out how I’m going to pay the divorce lawyer.”

“Moira, no!” Jake threw himself on the bed then, his arms grabbing at her legs beneath the blankets, his head against her shin. “You can’t leave me, not now!”

“Why not? You shot my eye out.”

When he told her he would die without her, Moira let her leg flail underneath him. “And I still won’t be able to see. Get the hell out of here.”

The metal ball in her stomach was glowing so hot she wondered if Jake could see it, if he could feel the heat radiating from her and down her legs to where his head was. She wondered if the nurses would be able to see it when they came in to bathe her, if they’d try to touch her and would jump back like they’d touched a hot stove, because she was radiating anger like she never had before. She kept her arms tight by her side, her mouth in a hard line.

Jake let go slowly, and she felt him move away. She could sense he wasn’t sure whether to actually leave or whether he should stay to fight it out. She guessed he’d slink away like some kind of ferret. She didn’t expect he’d stay and try to change her mind. Not right now, anyway. Just that fact made her glad they didn’t have kids at the moment. It had never been like they’d decided not to have them, it was more like they never felt quite ready. There was always a tire to replace on the truck, or new gutters to put on the house, or a night out with Cindy and Mike that ended up costing too much in beer and pool. But now that she thought about it, there was all those times when Jake found a way to just slip out—of the conversation, of the room, of the house—when the subject came up. He might have had a problem with having a baby, but she would never have known because he just wouldn’t fight it out. Just like he wouldn’t fight with her now.

A moment later, he met her expectations. Three steps, the door sighed open, then swung shut with a click.

Silence settled over Moira like a cloth, then, as her ears adjusted, she could hear the bustle of the hospital outside her door: medicine carts rolling by, their wheels making small squeaks against the linoleum; laughter from the nurse’s station; a doctor steps away from her door giving instructions to a transport orderly. It seemed like she could hear more than usual, probably because she couldn’t see. And she was thinking more than usual. Even though she could still feel the effects of the medication, it was as if the darkness was bringing her the opportunity to go deep inside her mind.

Even though Becky Marlin’s the one who got quoted in the paper, she probably wasn’t the only one saying there’s no way she’d stay. Over at the Shoney’s breakfast bar, the guys Jake hunts with every year are probably scooping out slightly congealed sausage gravy to drown biscuits and laughing about how this could never happen except on TV, how no one would believe it. They’d shake their heads and remember aloud how pretty Moira was before she got scarred. She could have picked any of them back then, any of them besides Jake. If she could just walk in there, saunter in there as if she could see through the bandages, she would get herself a plate of eggs and bacon and French toast sticks, sit down with them, point out that Jake might be unlucky, but that he’d never raised a hand to her or made her feel small or forgotten her birthday like the rest of them had with their wives. Still, if they watched her, they’d notice her stabbing the eggs hard enough that the fork scattered them around her plate rather than actually spearing them. They would notice her crumbling the bacon into little pieces, then squeezing the pieces so hard between her fingers that they left greasy indentations.

She felt for the button that raised and lowered the bed, fumbled with it until she managed to get her legs propped a little higher. Maybe getting the blood to flow toward her head would help her eye heal more quickly. She tried to figure out whether she could see the back of her left eyelid, but was hard to tell. The bandages kept out the light.

She took inventory of her house. If she kicked Jake out, she would have to move. She imagined herself navigating the stairs down from the master bedroom one step at a time, bringing her trailing foot to meet the lead foot without fear of overstepping. When she actually broke up with Jake, she would sit forward on the living room couch, signaling that this would not be a relaxing conversation. Take the guest room furniture, she would say, and she would tell him to take the dining room suite, too, because it was his grandmother’s. She would keep the kitchen table for small meals alone. She couldn’t see herself hosting Thanksgiving dinner or any other meal that required intensive preparation, unseen faces around the table waiting for her fumble through grace. “I’ll keep the living room furniture,” she would say, “because I know where it is and how big it is and I can get around it without any problem. You’ll just have to get your own.” She would tell him to take all the books, and, hell, the TVs in the living room and the bedroom. “I’ll just have to learn to listen to the radio.”

Then she thought about their wedding album. It wasn’t much, just a regular one from the Hallmark store filled with pictures from the disposable cameras left on all the VFW hall tables. But in there was the picture of her with her dress hiked up to her thighs, Jake tugging at her blue garter with a goofy grin splayed across his face. And the picture of her and Cindy doing the Electric Slide just before Cindy’s heel broke and sent her limping off the dance floor. She would let Jake take that and just rely on the pictures in her head, thanks to him.

“What about our yearbook?” he would ask quietly, hoping to slide it by her. He would want to keep it because he suggested that they buy just one that year to share forever. She knew this, and so although she would not be able to see his dime-sized head in the football team photo or the candid shot of them throwing on Frisbee on the tennis courts, she would keep it, tucked away in a closet, where he couldn’t see it either.

She suspected she would pull it out from time to time. She imagined she would rub the lettering on the cover until the gold flaked off, even though she would never really know whether or not that had come to pass.

“And you should take the truck with you, of course,” she would say. That same F-150 they’d lain in the back of, wrapped in blankets, and made out in after football games their senior year of high school. That had been the first place they’d slept together, one day when she couldn’t see saying no any longer. She didn’t ever want to ride in it again.

There was a list of places they wanted to drive to in that damn truck. They’d come up with it in the backyard right after they got married, and they called it the “When We’ve Got Money And Time” list:

  1. Graceland, because Moira’s Daddy loved Elvis so much.
  2. Carhenge in Nebraska, because one time Cindy and Mike went there and Cindy sent Moira a postcard.
  3. New Orleans, because Moira loved daiquiris and she had heard there were daiquiri stands on every block.
  4. Las Vegas, because they knew they would never get to Europe, and they could go there and see the Paris and the Venetian and pretend they were far away.
  5. Tijuana, because Moira didn’t believe it could possibly be as bad as people say and because Jake believed it could be.

She figured it wasn’t worth going to those places if she couldn’t see them. Besides, it would seem strange without Jake.

At the end of their conversation, Jake would sigh. He would stand up, then walk over to sit next to her and hug her around the shoulders. She might have to blink back some tears, not just from the effort of it all, but from the knowledge that sooner rather than later, he would have to let go of her and leave the house, and she would be alone, floating on the couch, suddenly not nearly as sure how to navigate through the living room furniture to the kitchen.

Really, she felt the same way about the room she was in. They seemed to have a catheter in her, so it wasn’t as if she had to get up and find the bathroom. And she knew where the door was, because she could hear it when it opened and closed, but she wasn’t sure what was between her and the door. And she couldn’t see what all she was hooked up to, so that meant she didn’t know if she’d pull something out if she tried get up and move around.

The day dragged on, and the hospital grew quieter. She thought it might be getting to be night. Every time she would drift away, it seemed some nurse would wake her to get her blood pressure or temperature or change the bag on her IV drip. Every time, Moira asked what time it was. Not knowing the time was driving her crazy.

Between the last night nurse’s visit and dawn, Moira discovered she had fallen asleep again. The ringing phone woke her up. She fumbled for the sound and brought the receiver to her ear. “Oh my God,” a female elderly voice said.

“What?” Moira said, trying to decide if she might actually be asleep.

“Who are you?”

Who are you?” Moira replied. “You called me.”

“Is this the room of Harry Smith?”

“No, I don’t know any Harry Smith.”

“Then where is he?”

Moira said she didn’t know, and the voice told her he had just been there a few days ago. Then the woman started to sniffle. “I keep thinking if I call the room he was in, perhaps he’ll answer and it won’t be true. I’m so stupid.”

“Of course you’re not,” Moira said, although she couldn’t be sure.

The woman said how much she missed Harry at night, and Moira felt a wave of sadness at the thought of a world without Jake. She asked if Harry was the woman’s husband, and the question brought a great sob from the other end of the line.

“They’re forgetting him already,” the woman cried. “I can’t get everyone to hold on to him the way I do.” Then there was nothing but sobs from the other end of the line.

“Maybe you’re supposed to be the only one who can hang on to him that way,” Moira said. “I am sorry.”

“So—am—I,” the woman said. “I’ve—disturbed your—sleep. I’m—sorry.”

“I have to go now.”

“I—know.” The woman’s voice still heaved.

“Good night.” Moira lay the phone back in the cradle, sure that morning would not come soon enough. Her stomach flipped over and over again as the woman’s sobs rang in her ears. She hoped Jake would come first thing in the morning. She vowed not to let him know that was what she wanted, but she would be ever-grateful if he would appear.


Sure enough, when the soft chimes announced the beginning of visiting hours, the door opened.

“Go away.” She knew it was him, by now more familiar with the sound of his boots than ever before. Until she had to identify Jake by sound and smell alone, she had not noticed the pop somewhere in the sole as one of his heels left the ground.

“No,” he said. “I won’t.”

“I said go away. I’m sleeping.”

“You’re talking. And you’re going to shut up and listen to me.”

Moira felt the bed sink as he sat next to her, heard the rustle of plastic bags. “Before you make up your mind one way or the other…”

“About what?” Moira snapped.

Jake sighed and told her he had something for her.

“It better be diamonds. Big ones this time. From the jewelry store at the mall. The one that sells only jewelry, not hardware and clothes, too.”

“It’s not diamonds. Now, will you be quiet, woman?”

Moira lay still. There was something different in his voice. It was a smoothness, a calm underneath the fear she’d heard since she woke up in the hospital bed.

“I didn’t bring you anything new. I brought you things from home.” More rustling and then something settled on her lap. She reached down and felt raised lettering on the cover of a large book.

“That’s our senior yearbook,” Jake said. “Remember how we only bought one? And signed it together? I want you to flip to the last page.”

“How do I know which one is the last page?”

“It’s right side up on your lap.”

Moira turned to the inside back cover, where they’d signed to each other. Her fingers ran down the page, found the edge of the heart sticker she’d put next to her name under what she’d written.

“Well that’s really nice, Jake. I guess I can feel the sticker. What’s your point?”

He lifted the book from her lap. “Dear Moira,” he read. “I never thought a little curve in the road would change everything the way it did. I’ll be sorry about that until the day I die. But I also want you to know here and now, in this book that we will share, that I’m always going to be grateful that you made it out of that crash alive. You mean more to me than anything, and I’ll always do right by you. I never thought I’d say that to anyone. I love you. Jake.”

Moira thought about the night they’d signed that book, the night out behind Jimmy Myers’ barn, with the bonfire flames racing each other toward the sky and the bottle of Jack Daniels passing from one mouth to the next. She had leaned back against Jake’s chest as they lay in the grass. He had wrapped one arm around her chest and one around her waist, squeezing her every now and again.

Here in the hospital room, she let her hand move across the bed until she felt his thigh. She put her hand there, felt the rough denim under her fingers, and beneath that, taut muscle. She longed to squeeze it just enough so he would know what was rising up underneath her anger, but she didn’t want to let him off that easily.

“Here’s this,” he said, laying a soft furry thing on her lap.

She let go of his thigh, smoothed her hands over stubby legs and arms, a round head, two ears. Jake told her how he had his mother dig out his old teddy bear from the attic so they would have it. He took her hand in his. “I was thinking that maybe—you know, not right now, but when you’re better—maybe we can have that baby we talked about.”

As he said that, Moira’s fingers found the bear’s eyes. Both of them. Two glass eyes.

“I don’t know what color this bear is,” she said. She clenched her teeth. “I’ve never seen this bear, so I don’t know what color it is. I don’t want to give a child a bear that I’ve never SEEN.” She launched the bear across the room. It hit the opposite wall with a soft puff, and one of its eyes clicked against the floor as it landed. It was then that she felt it again, that rolling in her belly. Her mouth opened to ask Jake to grab the pan for her, to warn him that she was about to puke, and then, a message flashed in her brain and glimmered on the backs of her eyelids. No warning.

She heaved a mouthful of bile onto his lap and felt him leap away and off the bed. “What the—Jesus!” She heard him run into the little bathroom next to her bed, heard the water start running.

“What the hell, Moira!” he yelled over the faucet noise. “Warn me next time! What the hell!”

“But why?” she said softly, more to herself than anyone else. After all, she knew that five years from now, they will laugh about this, sitting around the kitchen table, maybe an empty pizza box on the counter and greasy paper plates scattered in front of them. Maybe a baby sleeping in the other room. They’ll be telling Cindy and Mike how funny it was, that time Moira threw up in Jake’s lap from the hospital bed. Jake will roar after calling Moira “The Stealth Puker,” and she’ll shout over his laughter that he deserved that and worse. “But baby,” Jake will say, “you know you’re truly a man’s girl when you puke on him and he sticks around.”

And he will nuzzle her neck. And she will turn her face toward him—seeking his lips on hers—maybe able to see him, maybe not.


genie gratto lives and writes in Oakland. Her work has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly and Night Train, and she once lost a Literary Death Match to a valiant opponent who bested her at beer pong in the final battle. You can find her very short fiction and nonfiction at 100ProofStories.com.