There was a squirrel trapped in the wall behind my stove in October. We could hear it clawing back there, but what to do? “Maybe it will leave of its own accord,” Paul said. We sat at the kitchen table, an old farm table so heavy it took two people to shift it, and listened. Perfect, I thought. One of my friends had come home one night to find her hunter husband had skinned a squirrel and put it in the Crock-Pot. She had lifted the lid expecting rice and beans and had found the pink body curled like a fetus.
One day, I said, “The squirrel’s gone — listen, quiet.”
He said, “Or it’s dead in there.”
The stench started three days later. Paul had gone to Phoenix for a conference on new soil technologies, leaving me with the changing leaves and the dead squirrel. At first it was just a tang in the air, sweet-sour, like menstrual blood, like the hair under his arms where I liked to bury my nose. Then it turned gamey, thickened. It spread through the house, a smell that gnawed at me like an itch I could never reach. Paul said it was the baby, said pregnant women had an enhanced sense of smell. Only four months in, and already he had read several books on the subject, was after me to start practicing my breathing and do squats to prepare my pelvic floor. He did not understand it was all I could do to shower and do a little work each day. The morning sickness had not let up, despite what his books predicted. It wasn’t really nausea, but more like a shaky hunger, a yearning mixed with claustrophobia. The only thing that helped was meat. Roast beef, steak, sliced ham, chicken cutlets. As long as I ate a good helping of meat every few hours, the sickness stayed at bay, a buzz in my throat. I knew it wasn’t really the baby’s fault, but I felt robbed of my last few months of freedom. Whenever Paul called from sunny Phoenix, bitterness choked me, made him think I was crying. He was perplexed and irritated. He used words like miracle and new life. I opened the windows, and the spiders came in. They clustered in the corners of the high ceilings and masqueraded as cracks in the plaster.
The Physics of Imaginary Objects by Tina May Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Tina May Hall. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.