Hush Hush, Little One

Flash
Merran Jones


Photo Credit: Daniel/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Those hands: the knuckle creases and droplet nails. Overnight, they’d changed from newborn-pink, fisted and desperate, to chubby, toddler-white. I’d observed her grow and yet hadn’t. It’s entirely possible to watch something unfold and not see it.

And our ‘Little Man,’ who hadn’t yet learned to hear or breathe… how unfair his heart should’ve beaten for only a fraction of mine.

I now have two shadows—one which stretches outward on long summer days, and one which casts inward, into the space where my children used to live.

*

“Your little girl didn’t make it, neither did the baby,” the doctors said like an afterthought as I lay in intensive care, as though my lacerations and internal bruising were the real trauma.

Nothing hurt like the pain of hearing I’d caused my children’s death.

“I can’t breathe,” I said.

“That’s the tube in your chest. You have a collapsed lung.”

“No, that’s not it.”

I’d hit a Stobie pole at full force, sustaining kidney damage; spleen and liver lacerations; pelvic, rib, and sternal fractures. I saw the car after I was extracted, crumpled into a grimace. The Stobie pole leant at an obscene angle.

Now I can drive again, I pass one after another. They all say, what if, what if, what if… The tic of guilt never leaves.

I’d felt strange the morning of the crash, as though I might have a seizure. The house kept telling me I wasn’t in it. Sounds were too big as they tried to collect in my ears.

My neurologist cautioned me: “Your epilepsy can worsen when pregnant. We may need to increase your medication.”

But I ignored the warning signs. Chloe needed nappies and I needed fresh air because she was driving me crazy.

When they pulled my belongings from the wreckage, they found the nappies in the boot, along with a packet of dummies for the baby, in anticipation of those long nights, imploring him to, “Hush hush, little one.”

He succumbed to the quiet for a different reason.

*

I beg my husband to move us away from South Australia. To a place where Stobie poles don’t dominate the landscape, a place where the cables are buried deep underground. But I can’t leave our children. Their two graves rest side by side, surrounded by other graves where the years can be counted on one hand.

“It’s alright, darling,” my husband says. “It won’t ever be the same, but it will get easier.”

I want to believe him. Maybe if I cede myself to time and age and, eventually, menopause, it won’t hurt so much when I inhale, maybe people will stop asking if we’ll try for another.

I drive to the cemetery, passing 56 Stobie poles. I place multicoloured poppies on my children’s graves. The flowers from two days prior are still fresh. I lean forward and whisper to the stones and the moss, the ashes and dust. Then I drive home again, the tic of guilt in time with my heart.

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Merran Jones’s fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Vestal Review, After the Pause, and Flash Fiction Magazine among dozens of others. She lives in Adelaide, Australia, and is a physiotherapist and mum in her spare time. See more of her work at merranjones.com. Email: merrankjones[at]gmail.com