Florence | by Chelsea Stickle

     Sam wanted to convince his wife he was ready to have a baby, so he patted down a five-pound bag of flour, searching for holes and tears. Satisfied, he wondered if he should give it a name. After all, everyone has a name. That’s how you know they’re a person. Flannery, Fletcher, Floyd, Florence. Florence. A little girl. He could put a pink bow on her.

     He buckled Florence into the passenger seat and lamented his lack of forethought. Maybe he could borrow a car seat. Rob’s son had just outgrown his. Sam could drop by.

     Rob tisked. “I was kidding. A bag of flour is nothing like a baby. It doesn’t eat or shit or piss on your face.”

     Sam crossed his arms and leaned forward. “Are you offering up my godson?”

     “I don’t think you’re ready for that.” He buckled in the car seat, righted himself and placed his hands on his hips. “Come inside. Have a drink. Bring the flour.”

     That first cool sip of beer rolled across his chest. Fresh spring air blew through the open window over the sink. The sound of ripping caught Sam’s ears. The cat hissed violently and bolted from the living room.

     Florence’s head was slashed. There were wet patches from the cat’s tongue, teeth marks. Clumps of her innards spread across the couch. Nausea ripped through him. Rob thumped the couch to scatter the flour. Soon it looked like nothing had happened.

     “I should probably get going,” Sam said. He hoisted Florence onto his hip and headed for the car. She didn’t feel lighter, just harder to keep together. Flour spilled onto his flannel shirt, and he tried to brush it back in but specks floated toward the grass and caught the sunlight in a sprinkling of ash.

     When he got home he left Florence on the dinner table so he could use the bathroom. Carrying her around was straining his muscles just enough that he noticed. He’d have to get a BabyBjörn. That would show Jessica he was serious.

     He washed his hands and returned to the dining room to find Florence missing, no clumps of flour in sight. Sam went into the kitchen and there was Jessica, scooping flour by the cup onto a sifter. His mouth dried out.

     “Thanks so much for getting flour,” she said. Her eyes squinted with happiness. Her hands dusted with Florence. “We were almost out and I wanted to use your blueberries before they went over the edge.”

     A cup of Florence was inside the bowl, a cup lingered on the sifter. Her brains were scrambled and he was supposed to be happy about it. “What are you making?” he croaked.

     She grinned. “Blueberry muffins.”

     Though he was torn between his love of blueberry muffins and the flour child he’d adopted only two hours ago, he didn’t ask Jessica to pause. Now that Florence was eternally divided, she was like any other bag of flour—completely insignificant—and hopelessness crept into him.

     As he watched his wife gleefully split their daughter in two, it occurred to him that her constant equivocations on the subject of children may not have been all about him and his lack of experience. Her excuses piled like ash in front of him. Enough to make Florence unnecessary for muffins.



Chelsea Stickle lives in Annapolis, MD. Her work has previously appeared on The Fem and Jellyfish Review. Find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.

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