I left him there because she’s the only other thing he took to. Not his father, not his brother. Only the sheep’s dirty pink belly, and me.
Eighteen months and he’d still scream when well-meaning people tried to touch him, to coochy-coo his buttery lump of a chin. No toy would satisfy him, no blanket, no diaper. He’d flinch and squall like the whole world was a lit stove. He refused to crawl or walk. The doctor chided me whenever I brought him in, as if I were the one who needed to stop clinging.
It was him, though, the baby, always clinging. Not to me, but to my skin, soft sticky hands wriggling beneath my shirt, past my waistband, into my mouth. And the nursing. Eighteen months and my milk was still all he would take. After his teeth grew in, he chomped down like he wanted to brand me, so no one else could have me.
His brother was never this way—couldn’t wait to toddle into mishaps. His father, well. His father was sympathetic, but his father slept through the night.
The county fair was his brother’s idea—he was finally tall enough for the rides. I used to love thrill rides—The Zipper, The Tilt-A-Whirl—my hips slammed into metal or squeezed by the lap belt, my hair flying everywhere, trying to escape my skull.
Because the naked little darling wouldn’t leave his mother’s arms, his father accompanied his brother on the rides. While they got their thrills, I walked him through the barns to see the blue ribbon winners. Pigs labeled Pork, cows labeled Beef and Milk. The sheep were just labeled Sheep.
One of the sheep had recently given birth. She lay on her side, bloated with nourishment for her new litter. The still-slick lambs scrambled for her, shoving one another aside to get their fill. The mother didn’t look at her brood. She kept her head steady, her eyes closed for minutes at a time.
I don’t know whether it was the scuffling of the lambs’ contest, or the smell of another creature’s dung, or something I did that caused him to turn. But turn he did, blinked his lashes at the scene in the pen, reached his pink fist toward the animals.
Nothing had ever fascinated him besides my body, and what mother would deny her child what he wants? I nestled him in the thick wool at the sheep’s back. He didn’t scream—nor did he stay. His legs were weak, but his arms were strong from constantly pulling himself closer to me. Instead of crawling, he dragged himself to her stomach, bulldozing the hay before him and leaving a trail of dirt in his wake. He squirmed between the other mother’s children, and being significantly larger, he easily found a nipple for himself.
The other mother didn’t seem to mind.
He took to her and I took off, leaving him well-fed and cared for.
I bought a ticket for the Kamikaze.
Becky Robison masquerades as a corporate employee in Chicago, but at heart she is a writer and a world traveler. A graduate of University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Creative Writing MFA program, she’s currently working on a novel and serving as Social Media and Marketing Coordinator for Split Lip Magazine. Her fiction has appeared in [PANK], Paper Darts, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter: @Rebb003