By Amy Barnes
Barbie’s hair floats like gold seaweed in Jar #3. Jar #1 began as a nine months-large terrarium. It holds one of my childhood chubby Cabbage Patch dolls. Her face smashed like she lived in my belly past her due date. A pickle jar holds a collection of Bratz and McDonald’s mini-dolls, all tangled up and too tiny to live. None of them have fluid or air to survive. I adopted them from our garage sale ‘free’ box, but it isn’t the best home for them.
Each jar is labelled in Sharpie, angry writing. Black letters counting down the jars like a silent, crazy Sesame Street Count. I survey these babies on the garage shelf like a mad scientist, bare feet on cold concrete.
In my nightmares or maybe daydreams, I wait for lightning to bring them to life. Rusty Folger’s coffee jars hold nails and screws and screwdrivers. They are the tools of my sanity last year that built cribs and a rocking chair. Now, they guard my jars like terracotta burial figures.
Just two days before, I waited patiently in the morgue with the empty Mason jar #3. I’d emptied out the homemade gift jelly that misguided Aunt Margaret brought me. It fell like big blood clot clumps into the toilet. I knew the night nurse would be confused, but I needed the jar to be empty. I didn’t deserve jellied toast for breakfast, anyway.
I stood with not-born blood still on my thighs. My hospital gown flatter against my belly than when I arrived too early. When she arrived too early. My feet cold and bare. Somewhere, hers still bare and covered in ink pad black. I was empty and full all at once, milk for no one filled the double jars I carried in my chest. I could almost hear them clank like full porch-left-milk bottles.
“I need an ounce of formaldehyde.”
I begged the scrubbed-up coroner as he stood over an anonymous cut-open body.
“We don’t send babies home that way, ma’am. They aren’t an appendix.”
I wanted to drop the precious jar into the gaping belly opening and run away laugh-screaming. I knew the running part was impossible as shuffling Frankenstein-style was my speed.
I dutifully returned to my room, taking short birthing breathes as I walked the cold tile.
Gripping the empty jar, I fell asleep knowing Nurse Barbie would fill Jar #3 perfectly.