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Saturday Storytime: My Mother’s Body

Part of the fun of meeting (in this case online) new people in the F&SF writers community is that you then get to find new stories too. In addition to writing science fiction and fantasy, Christie Yant is an assistant editor at Lightspeed Magazine.

I never saw my mother’s body after she died. The man on the other end of the line asked me if I wanted to–whether they should delay the cremation so that I could make the two-and-a-half hour drive up the coast to where she lay in storage. Pale and spotted with bright red cherry angiomas, her sides striped with purple scars from multiple kidney surgeries and her arms mottled with worn red gashes where the tremors had caused her to scratch herself, I had seen enough of my mother’s body when she had been alive.

It’s different now that it’s my own body. I find myself fascinated and curious as I’m prepped and marked. Striped, as she was, but with markers and dotted lines. It makes me think of a butcher’s diagram describing different cuts of meat, and that makes me laugh because it is so close to the truth.

***

My mother’s feet were blue and cold, as if she were dead already, and the thick yellow nails of her big toes always had a “v” cut in them, to keep them from becoming ingrown. They were ingrown anyway, more often than not, toes swollen red and white from the infection. My grandparents would ask me to rub her feet sometimes to try to bring the circulation back to them. I hated touching those half-dead things. It seemed to me that if they were dead then they must not hurt, and I was afraid that rubbing them back to life would cause her pain.

My own feet are cold and the nurse brings me another warm blanket, tucking it carefully around my feet with almost maternal care as she thanks me again for what I’m about to do.

“You’re so brave,” she says. I murmur words of appreciation because I know she means it, but she couldn’t be more wrong.

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