Eggs by Shannon Purdy Jones

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close-up of a black spot on a butterfly wing

My partner finds her on the kitchen floor. He’s gone downstairs to start the coffee, the sun a weak ember through the tree line out the window. Her clay brown body would have blended in with the tile if not for black and gold eyes glaring up from her wings in accusation. A Polyphemus moth, she’s as big as my open palm, all shimmering bronze fuzz with glints of crimson and blue-black in the flat florescent light. I know she’s female by her swollen abdomen, gravid and cumbersome with the hope of new life.

We scoop her onto a piece of junk mail. There’s no panic or flurry of downy wings as we ease her onto a glossy ad for auto refinancing. She comes willingly, slow steps on stout legs. We carry her out onto the back deck, hopeful that the new sun’s warmth will get her moving. I pretend I don’t know that adult moths don’t have mouth parts. She can’t eat to renew herself after her ordeal. At this stage her body is good for only one thing.

I nearly bled out when my son was born. For hours there was no baby and then he was, wailing and impossibly alive nuzzled on my chest. That’s the moment we were supposed to bond, the moment that’s supposed to mean we were out of the woods. With each painful prick and pull of swelling belly and rearranged organs a mother learns new fears by heart for that fragile flicker growing inside, anxieties collected and counted like talismans against the unthinkable. The one amulet I never thought to add to my months-long string of worries: that he could be born whole and strong while I was the one who slipped away. Before, I’d imagined life leaves us in a trickle, ebbing like a drying up streambed. Really it’s a gush, a torrent of mortal red and blaring monitors as your baby’s warmth is snatched from your skin and your head lolls cold to one side, life draining away from the same place it begins.

In the afternoon the house is quiet. I carry my reheated leftovers to the kitchen table and try not to look out the window. She’s still there exactly as we left her, the only sign of life the slow opening and closing of wings.

I’m gathering up my empty lunch dishes when I notice them: tiny cream-colored discs coated in a rusty goo clustered on the blinds. I swipe one clump with a rag and the eggs scatter like beads across the wood floor. I didn’t expect them to be hard—new life so often comes soft and vulnerable—but they’re smooth and cool as cabbage seeds against my palm.

My second child entered the world with much less cataclysm. This time, the doctor said, we knew to prepare for the worst. This time I held my daughter the entire hour it took to stop my hemorrhage. She screamed and thrashed and I stuffed a nipple in her mouth. She curled her fragile heartbeat into mine as the doctors worked to keep me with her. They told me she would be my last, that my treasonous body would not survive another birth. It’s fine, I told them. Two is enough, or maybe two too many looking out onto a future with more people than trees. That’s what I tell myself when the leaves burn crimson and shed away like each month’s gory evidence of life that never was, and for me, never will be again.

These eggs won’t become moth life, no matter how protective their casings. That’s what I tell myself as I vacuum them up. They weren’t laid on green leaves larvae could hatch and devour. Even if she’d never been trapped in our kitchen it’s late in the year for offspring. The nights hint at the coming cold, the plants on which her babies might have nursed dying back to brown stalks.

When I finish cleaning I go back to the window. I can’t tell if the occasional jerk in her wings is death throes or the wind tilting her lifeless body. The hard round pellets at the bottom of my trash can were her last great act, the future laid in a panic on sterile white blinds.

Meet the Contributor

Shannon Purdy JonesShannon Purdy Jones is a bisexual writer and co-owner of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, North Carolina. An avid believer in the value of literary community, she is a member of the North Carolina Writer’s Network, and also helps coordinate school/author experiences with Greensboro Bound Literary Organization’s Authors Engaging Students program.

When not writing she can be found growing vegetables in the front yard and perplexing the neighbors. She lives in central North Carolina with her partner and children.

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Mel Bramble

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