Ricochet Preview: Green Bench, Blue Church by Laura McPhee-Browne
This was the winner of our book pack for favourite Australian short story.
The baby was in bed with her now. She had her arms around its impossibly tiny body and its warm head close on her belly. The girl, for she was only a girl and not a mother despite what the nurse had said, was cold and knew the baby would be too. She’d no heating in this flat, just piles of paper and clothes which she sometimes considered throwing into the fireplace and setting alight for the warmth. Instead she lay still and considered her heart. Imagined it inside her chest so still and strange. The baby was ten days old and the girl’s heart didn’t pulse for the baby. Though she would hold it close for now.
The girl had lived a sort of heady life – out of home at fourteen then heroin to show them, heroin to please him, heroin to pretend until now. She was so young and had known more about the bitumen than herself, how it melted in the Melbourne summer and stuck to her shoes as she sat, nodding near the park at midday. The girl’s shoes had electric yellow curly laces she had stolen from Big W near closing time on a Saturday night. They made her smile.
After two the girl got out from under the covers with a sweaty sheen on her chest. The baby was dribbling and felt too hot so she brought it to the sink for a sort of bath. She let the cool water drip through her fingers onto the baby’s belly button and fat kicking legs. The girl tried not to think about how she had felt before the baby was born, purple and red, from her vagina. The appointments at the clinic had begun each time on a ratty chair in the waiting room, her hands clasped over her big stomach and a pink smile on her face. Each appointment seemed more real than anything else and she loved the way the doctor would talk to her, soft and clear and exact, telling her about how her child was faring inside of her and what to expect upon birth. The warmth of her body from the baby inside had helped her to stop being sad and she thought that perhaps this was what she was going to be; a young and capable mother, wheeling her pram and cooing to her babe amongst the throng.
Read the rest of this story when Ricochet Magazine goes live at 12pm (AEST) on Monday May 19.
Laura McPhee-Browne is a social worker and writer of short stories and poetry from Melbourne, currently living in Toronto. Laura tweets micro-fiction daily @laurahelenmb.