meadows_creepy_500The siphoning happens as it always happens. A tingling beneath the skin of her breast announces an increased flow of milk from duct, a burning sensation, and relief when the sucking deepens and her flesh begins to deflate. Her fists and feet seize, attempting to master the quaking in her shoulders and thighs—emptying oneself to fill another is exhausting work. Her upper and lower teeth war, her mouth unsure whether to open or to shut, to protect or to eat. It’s violent, becoming feral.


Cloth diaper, back is best, breast is best, yes to immunizations, no to circumcision—such was the advice she collected, and yet no one warned her, “Don’t eat your baby.” She adopts this mantra. “Don’t eat your baby,” she sings. “Don’t eat your baby.” And even as she whispers of love, she sings because she just can’t handle all the wonder, all the beauty. She sings until her song is almost growl, her embrace almost smother. She knows it’s only hormones, Oxytocin sending messages to her mammary glands to let down, messages concurrently telling her body that she and this creature must imprint.


“He doesn’t love me like he loves you,” her husband frets. “That’s not true.” She settles it deeper into the folds of her stomach. “Don’t say that.” But his words please her because this baby is hers. She and it are both complementary and congruent, every measurement of growth hers to give. When her husband sleeps, she rubs used shirts along her neck and under her breasts, swaddling it in the perfumed material. She paces on fours in front of its crib. Mine, not yours, she warns the darkness. Before sunrise, she lifts it by the neck, her teeth careful against the precious skin.


There are hard kisses and rough hugs, licks when her husband is not looking. It’s imperative the imprinting happen now. Before bottle wins over breast. Before wife wins over mother. In spring, they will crawl from their den, bits of drool and milk hardened onto their skin and hair. They’ll straighten on two legs, she, remembering what it is to be something other than wolf, and he, learning what it is to be halved. And when he runs, she’ll stop herself chasing him. This, after all, is what she has been preparing for. It’s violent, this parting. All she can do is hope that the imprinting has worked, and that the ferocity of her affection will remain with him.


Jen Palmares Meadows writes from northern California. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Denver Quarterly, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, Essay Daily, Memoir Journal, and elsewhere. She is currently at work on a collection of Vegas stories.

Photography by Laura Frantz