Excerpt: With Animal by Carol Guess and Kelly Magee

About the Book:

Editor’s Award for Literature

“In beautifully rendered, deeply imaginative short stories, Carol Guess and Kelly Magee mine the depths of parenthood while also exploring gender and sexuality.” —The Editors of Shelf Unbound

Black Lawrence Press

Fiction. LGBT Studies. Hybrid twins: one human, one horse. A man pregnant with a kangaroo, a woman raising a baby dragon. A twenty- first century Virgin Mary reimagined as a queer single mother giving birth in a petting zoo. In this collaborative short story collection, Carol Guess and Kelly Magee magically and playfully subvert assumptions about gender, sexuality, parenting, and family. These lyrical fictions bare teeth and spare no claw. They’ll leave you questioning the lines between human and animal, parent and child, love and dominion.

Read an Excerpt:

Featured in Dec/Jan 2016 Issue: 2015 Indie Best Award Winners

With Human

1. When she learned that the baby was human, she felt disappointed. It rattled inside her, fearless and furless, alphabet of bones and thumbs.

An animal pregnancy was all soft tongues, lapping; pink silk and decoration. Multiples, so they took care of themselves. They nested inside each other, fully formed at birth.

It wasn’t her fault, her husband reminded her. His DNA decided things. He was the carrier; he was the mail. Still, she talked to the baby animals. Named them as if she might keep them.

Of course mothers could only keep human infants. Baby animals were whisked away. Her first three pregnancies were bundled in yellow blankets and disappeared down the hall with the nurse. Of course they reassured her that her kittens, puppies, and pandas were loved; cuddled and coddled. Of course she didn’t look at the smoke that flew over the hospital, crooked gray birds.

This time it was human, so she could keep it. Her husband would name it, reward her with gifts. She would be given a pink or blue blanket, press a heart to her chest, nurse a face when it cried.

Where were her animals? Where had they gone?

The little human baby snowballed inside her, colder and harder, collecting sharp stones. 

2. Ivy covered the windows of the animal nursery.

Night nurse, fox nurse, noon nurse, God.

3. Down the hall, human babies failed the APGAR. Neonatal German Shepherds twitched in sleep, hightailing sheep.

4. She winced when her husband stroked her stomach: Henry, Catherine, Leroy, Lee.

Sit and Stay.

He fed her cravings: dog food, cat food, worms, bamboo.

5. When the baby was born, she felt pleased. He dropped from her like an anvil, dense and singular. Dark hair curled down his back. He didn’t suck at her breast so much as gnaw.

He lifted his head right away, arching away from her. She stroked his naked cheek until he turned and bit her finger.

Her husband couldn’t swaddle him tight enough. The baby’s legs kicked free, bicycling air. Gymnast, her husband said. Escape artist. Strong man.

Animal, she thought. Beloved.

From With Animal by Carol Guess and Kelly Magee, Black Lawrence Press, blacklawrence.com. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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