Dispatch from the fetal reduction
Well, this is a first.
When my brothers and I received news that one of us would have to go, I assure you, I did not think that it would be me. Case in point, our youngest brother, Clomig. At the time of my departure, he hadn’t developed otic pits yet. I never met a slower learner in my life.
I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know a lot of lesbians—no fault of my own—but from what I’ve heard, they’re a stalwart bunch. Fortunately, my capacity for compassion is such that I can understand how news of triplets could be an unexpected physical and financial burden for first-time, intended parents, but I say, you pay 25K for babies, you want bang for your buck.
Can you hear me all right, by the way? My buccophayrngeal membrane never ruptured, so I don’t actually have a mouth. But why get mired in details?
No one likes to be underestimated, and the medical community underestimated my mother and I, both. The circumstances of my extinction were such that I never saw my mother, but I did spend six weeks inside of her and she ran a tight ship.
You’d think they’d take her outstanding physical service record into account before deciding what her body was and wasn’t fit for— twenty-seven years young, corn-fed from Nebraska, twins in 2007, triplets in 2004—there was no reason to think that this champion surrogate couldn’t push three more kiddies out without incident. But I shan’t dwell on the past.
As to the role of the intended parents in the decision making process, I’m afraid I’m not informed. I can only imagine that it was decided under the influence of extreme sedatives in absolute darkness and perhaps without their wits, because if the intended had actually met Clomig, there is no way they would have aimed that poisoned tip of potassium chloride at my ambitious heart.
I’ll start with my other brother, Fertinex. Am I shouting? No? Good.
Fertinex loved bubbles—any kind of carbonization, really—and jogging, and the laying down of plastic railway tracks. In confidence one morning on the lower deck of the amniotic sac, he admitted that he planned to be an astronaut when he grew up. He might as well have said ‘Cobbler’ or ‘VCR Repairman.’ He’s such a tender thing.
It’s this penchant for nostalgia that troubles me when I contemplate how Fertinex will navigate life without me— one can’t help but wonder if he’ll make it past the fourth stage of grief or whether he’ll just dwell and linger ever longer on my loss.
As for brother Clomig—well, let’s not mince words—he was the one they were after with their probe. Not the brightest bulb in the uterus, malheureusement.
Aside from the antiquated accordion he kept slung about his neck, Clomig showed no interest in any subject matter, no zest for life. I’ll make two exceptions to this comment: he liked green crayons and the acronym ‘Nasdaq.’ In the mornings, he’d sit there suspended in liquor amnii with his stubby feet in the vague territory of his ill-formed future mouth and gurgle, “Nasdaq! Nasdaq! Nasdaq!” while I marked up my financial portfolio with a nub of purple chalk.
I bet you think I’m angry. I’m fluent in bereavement, I know which stage I’m at. I’m positively filthy with the black muck of denial. Had I not been sacrificed, I would have done great things. By way of example: a MacArthur Genius grant for my hypertext translation of “The Mahabharata” three months before my twenty-eighth birthday.
Also: the provision of emotional and financial support from 2018 onwards to my Sapphic mothers, along with the thrice-yearly usage of my tree house in the Buxa Tiger Reserve; a free-floating structure I would have built with my life—and business—partner, Yves in India, for our vacations.
In addition to being a great place to do yoga, the tree house would have proved instrumental during the year I took off to support Fertinex through his crippling addiction to a particularly low-grade form of Opium known on the street as “Block.” During this time, Yves would have manned the sustainable architectural firm I left behind me in Chicago. Each month, he’d send a care package of dried noodles and used books.
At night, I’d make Fertinex smoothies from a protein powder packet and read him poetry while he twisted on his cot. For those that say that opium is a submissive narcotic—gentler than heroine, easier to quit—I invite you to contact me for more details on what it was like to watch my own brother come to terms with the physical and emotional rubble of his life with an acute case of diarrhea and frequent muscle spasms, in a tree house 100 feet above the ground.
This period would prove to be the most frustrating, risky and meaningful three-hundred and sixty-five days of my life, but I did not get to live it. The intended parents chose me, chose to end my life.
And so Clomig turns out to be the winner! Clomig, with his honking snuffleupagus of a nose; his malodorous cooking! Being absorbed back into your own mother’s body gives you a real sense of perspective: I’ve seen great things and Clomig’s future isn’t one of them.
I can only hope the gentle beast will provide my thwarted mothers with occasional moments of hard-won joy with his above-average rendition of “Ah Ram Sam Sam!” on his button-key accordion. But somehow, I doubt it. One can only take so much.
And so it falls to Fertinex to be the bright star of the family. My preferred brother, I leave you with these words:
Fertinex, when you meet a man in Vancouver’s Boundary Bay Airport while waiting for your connection to MacMillan Provincial Park where you’re going to study the semiotics of red cedar tree rings with your long term energy healer Maximum and your invisible spirit animal—a bunny—when you meet this graceful man in line at the Nut Shack while purchasing orange flavored Certs, when he asks how long your layover is, when he asks you if you party, Fertinex, say no.
There are stories waiting out there in those tree rings, there is meaning in the height to which those strong trees grow. You must make it to the cedars. You must tell their stories. Everyone must know.
Courtney Maum is a fiction writer based in between the Berkshires of Massachusetts and New York City. A humor columnist for Electric Literature, her work has appeared in Slice Magazine, The Rumpus, Vol.1 “Sunday Stories,” Anderbo, Tin House’s “Open Bar” and others. She is a frequent reader at NY-based series and a Literary Death Match champion. Courtney is currently working on a collection of comic fiction entitled “Funny You Should Say That.” Find her on Twitter at @cmaum