Short Stories
Comments. Curiously, I expected the judges to take the husband's point of view, even though the story is told from the wife's point of view. That works fine and adds a little horror. Tom's emotions change every time he talks, creating emotional movement.


by Emma Sohan

"What are you doing, Jennie?"

Tom startles me -- I didn't hear him come in. Is he accusing me? "Nothing."

He looks down at the paper cutouts I have on the table. He knows I'm doing something. I turn red.

"What are these, Jennie?" He gestures at the cutouts. Now he's giving me his soft love look. The Jennie-we-care-for-you look. The Jennie-we're-sorry-for-you look.

I relax. Tom loves me. "I'm trying to decide how many children we should have."

He looks puzzled, so I rush to explain. "This is you, and this is me." I point to the two largest cutouts. They're already nicely colored. "And this is us with three children." I point to the three cut-outs of children, following us like ducks across the table. They're uncolored because I'm still making up my mind.

"And this is us with two children." I take one of the children away.

"This isn't helping anything, Jennie." I see him start to scowl. I hate when he's unhappy with me.

"Yes! Yes it does, Tom. Numbers, they're too hard to imagine by themselves. 18 kids. What does that mean? It's just a sound. But when you actually put them out on the table, it's too many." I point to the pile of cutout children piled on the side of the table with the other scraps. "We can't have 18 children. It's impractical. I know that now."

He gives his huge what-am-I-going-to-do sigh. "We won't have 18 kids. Jennie –"

I interrupt. "I'm still deciding between 2 and 3." Two doesn't look like very many. What if one gets cancer? I put down the third cut-out. Three seems like the perfect number, except then I can't decide if we should have two boys and a girl, or two girls and boy.

"Jennie, you had ovarian cancer. You aren't having any children. You have to face that. Please." That's his desperate look.

I want to hold my hand over my ears, but Tom always pulls them off and gives me his angry look. So I sing to myself as loudly as I can. Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down. I don't hear past the ovarian word, but that upsets me.

"They said it was only a chance of ovarian cancer, Tom. You heard them. You were there with me. A chance. That's means there's a chance there's no ovarian cancer."

Now his eyes just look sad. "That's what they said before your other tests. Before your surgery. Before they took your ovaries out."

Ring around the rosy... I only hear the first few words. Tom's being cruel. Did he stop loving me?

I put one of the cutout children in the cutout of Tom's arms. "Hi Daddy! I'm so excited you're home." Tom will be a great father. One of our children has to be a boy, I know that now.

He takes my hand. I remember the doctor taking my hand to talk to me. I try to pull my hand away from Tom, but he won't let me. "Jennie, look at me."

I see the tears streaming out of his eyes. "You have to face the truth, Jennie. I can't live like this. We can't live like this."

I start to sob in pain, and I can't stop. He stands behind me and holds me, and he keeps saying good girl and everything will be okay. Even though it won't.

Eventually I stop crying. Tom is stroking my hair with one hand and holding me with the other. I feel better. I look down at the cutout figures on the table. And I finally realize the truth. Two children will be best for us. A boy and a girl. I start to color them in.

Short Stories