When I could no longer take the pain, I went to my father the experimental scientist and begged him to undo my miscarriage.
“Do not be a fool, you fool,” he told me. “You must simply return the bedroom and try again. What else can you do?”
“But I had high hopes for this one,” I protested. For only twelve weeks I had been pregnant, but I had already picked out the gender, hair color, hobbies, and college for the creature growing inside me. “Please?” I tried. “I miss it.”
Papa sighed profoundly. “You will forget all about this once you have a replacement.”
We argued for a while, and then I offered to cover his car payments for the summer to get what I wanted. When he wasn’t experimenting, Papa was an adjunct. He mournfully agreed.
“It can be with you, but it will not grow into a person,” he said. He descended into his basement and returned with a murky red potion, the same color as the carnage that dripped down my leg while my husband and I were sitting on the porch marveling at the sunset a week earlier.
Papa turned toward the window. The day was cruelly sunny, though there had been an 80 percent chance of rain. I would have preferred the gloom, but I had no control over these things.
“You know,” Papa said. “It is—”
“Very common to have a miscarriage,” I said, rolling my eyes. “I know. A one in five chance in the early months. It happens all the time.”
“That is not what I planned to say,” he said. “I planned to say that it is often very difficult to be alive.”
“Yet here I am, desperate to bring someone out into this mess,” I said. I grabbed the potion and left without thanking him.
I drank the liquid as I walked home. It was bitter and viscous, like the inside of my soul. I felt no immediate transformation. Back at home, my husband was watching basketball on television. A man was shooting a free throw with a 53% percentage of success, and he made it.
“His odds of success were far worse than ours,” I noted.
My husband sighed. “Is everything going to be like that from now on?” But he put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed.
“I hope not,” I said. “I’m going to bed.” It was dinner time, but he did not argue.
Fitfully I slept. Every night since the tragedy, I dreamt that I stood on the shores of a beach with my recently dead grandmother. It was night and the moon gave the waves a menacing edge. There was a sign in Russian near us, but I could not read it; or rather, the words were nonsensical, and whenever I asked my grandmother to decipher the message, I would wake up. So I stopped asking, just to be near her a little longer. That night, the sign read, Salami is Your Salvation. It meant nothing.
The next morning, I heard a wet sucking sound behind me when I went down the stairs. I looked down and was delighted to find a puddle of viscera trailing me, leaving a path of blood in its wake.
“How I’ve missed you,” I said, bending down to pat the little guy. He could not respond, of course, but he kept following me as I made my eggs and bacon, hungry for the first time since I lost her. I did not know it would be a “she” until that moment, but now it was obvious.
I ate my breakfast. I put on ABBA. My little miscarriage and I danced to “Stayin’ Alive,” and I’ll admit it, there might have been blood all over the living room when my husband found me in this compromised state.
“Jesus Christ,” he said. “All the blood—I thought you—I thought there was something wrong,” he said, scrunching his face at the mess by my feet. “And now I see there is,” he said.
“I’m going to keep him and I don’t care what you say,” I said.
“It’s not a him,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s not an anything. I’m sorry, Yulia. But you do know this isn’t healthy?”
Tears streamed down my cheeks and mingled with the floor blood. I gazed at my handsome husband and felt my chin wobble. He peered into my soul as I awaited words of passion and understanding.
“At least find a way to wrap that thing up,” he said, frowning at my beloved viscera puddle. “I don’t want my home to look like a crime scene.”
I kissed him madly. Then I covered my creature in shrink wrap and mopped up the floor. It followed me around all morning long like an eager puppy. When my husband left for work, though, I took it out on the porch with me and let it breathe. It lapped up the sunshine and we sat like that all day long until I heard the rumble of my husband’s car. His face was blotchy when he greeted me, but he would not admit he too was grieving, in his way.
A year and a half later I gave birth to a beautiful healthy girl. My husband thought I would get rid of my miscarriage by then, but I kept it by my side. It followed me everywhere. It turned out it was only visible to members of my family, which was a blessing. At night, it slept at the foot of my bed. The shrink wrap helped cover the smell.
“It would be easier if you threw it away,” my husband noted.
“Who said anything about easy?” I said.
I cradled my girl, whose face appeared a bit pinched, less perfect than the face I had longed for. But what can you do?
My good girl grew up just fine. After two more miscarriages, I had a beautiful boy. He grew up, too. When he started to speak, I could not help but notice his voice was not as tender as I had imagined it would be.
My shrink wrapped angels followed me wherever I went. I told the kids not to play with them, but they were still fascinated.
“They aren’t toys,” my husband would growl, but he allowed me to carry on.
On occasion, I still had the dreams where I faced the dark beach with my grandmother. The signs continued to lack sense. Straw Homes Burn Desperately, they would read. Scrambled Eggs are the Devil. Jump While Shouting Only.It wondered if it would be better to not be able to read them at all, to keep the mystery alive.
Papa would come over to play with the little ones. He eschewed my miscarriages for the most part, though occasionally, he brought them treats, too. I would unwrap them and they would settle over the candy and suck it up into their grisly insides.
“What’s a grandfather for, if not for spoiling?” Papa would declare. He had retired by that point, focusing on his experiments, so he was more poor but also more happy.
“Full house,” my husband would mutter sometimes when all of us would gather on the porch in the twilight, us and our children and losses and Papa too. It was a beautiful sight.
The years continued their deadly march. They took with them Papa and a variety of friends and neighbors. My children grew to have children of their own. My daughter had four miscarriages but chose not to keep them beside her. My little demons stayed with me and I whispered to them before I went to bed every night. They orbited me like defeated moons and their suctioned movement by my side brought the greatest comfort. My husband ignored them. He made them wait outside the door whenever we made love, which was a reasonable request.
“I hope you are proud of our children,” he told me from time to time, when I complained about this or that. I loved our children, but they were not perfect. They were admitted to colleges that had 20 and 17 percent acceptance rates, which seemed a bit high to me.
My daughter’s husband was a touch on the dull side, and my son married a nice woman, but a vegan, which made it difficult to have them over for dinner. My miscarriages, I was certain, would have married charming people who loved all types of meats and poultry. They would have entered colleges that accepted only 5% of their applicants.
“We did our best,” my daughter told me one day, when I was on my deathbed. My heart was very weak.
“Of course you did, my darlings,” I told her and my son, but nobody was convinced. My husband sulked by the window, watching the sky, checking the forecast. His hair was as white as an avalanche and he was more handsome than ever.
“Then why do you want us to bury them with you?” my daughter asked, nodding toward my shrink-wrapped babies, who stood at attention by the side of my bed.
“Because otherwise I would miss them,” I said. This is not to say I believed in God or an afterlife. I simply wanted them beside me, also sinking into nothingness.
I already felt the world before me fading, losing its contours. But I saw my viscera mounds with perfect clarity. I would miss their earthy smell. Through their shrink-wrapped guts, I saw the wondrous children they would have grown up to be. I saw myself beside them, a perfect mother, fulfilling their every need, far better than the mother I had been in reality.
“I’d be happy to bury them,” my husband noted. “To never look at those things again.”
I kicked the children out. I got up and stood beside my husband, watching the sky. The night before, I had another beach dream, this time with Papa standing next to my grandmother under the dark sky. The sign only said These Are Words. I kicked in the sign and went for a swim. It never occurred to me that I could. The water was briny and primordial.
My husband and I stared toward the heavens. We did not want rain because we planned to hold an outdoor funeral for me that afternoon, whether I was dead or alive, though I had calculated that I had a high chance of dying in the next few hours.
My husband checked his phone and declared there was only a ten percent chance of rain.
“But it doesn’t look good,” I said as the darkening clouds rolled toward us.
“No,” he agreed, and he held my hand as we watched the water gushing from the sky and hitting the ground without warning.
Maria Kuznetsova is the author of the novel, OKSANA, BEHAVE! (Spiegel & Grau/Random House). “The Odds” is part of a larger project, excerpts from which can be found in The Threepenny Review, Indiana Review, Baltimore Review, Copper Nickel, On the Seawall, and Crazyhorse. You can find Maria at mariakuznetsova.net or @mashawrites.