by Andrea Kahn

My legs dangled down off the exam table over the beige linoleum, and I stared at my unzipped, beaten-to-hell black boots as the obstetrician reviewed my bloodwork and confirmed what I already knew but refused to accept.

I wasn’t pregnant anymore.

I was lucky with my first pregnancy—even then, I knew it. I’d gotten pregnant very quickly, and my baby didn’t have any issues in utero.

I guess there was an issue this time.

Maybe if I had been more careful, hadn’t been climbing around in our apartment closet, trying to find the right vacuum-sealed bag with my fall clothes. It was so hard to find anything since the move across the state. Maybe I wasn’t eating well enough. Maybe the prenatal hadn’t been enough nutrition, or did I overdo it on the sweets?

What could I have done better? Could I have done anything better?

I knew all the things people are supposed to say—or at least, the things they do say—when this happens. It’s for the best. It means there was something wrong. At least it happened early. You can always try again. But I didn’t want to hear them.

I’d just found out I was pregnant. And then a week later—at six weeks—I started spotting.

As soon as it began, I double-checked, yes, spotting was normal, yes, it can happen throughout the pregnancy, it’s probably fine, just call your doctor, but then it got heavier, and heavier, and I did call the doctor, and they didn’t understand, I needed to come in today, but they made me wait until the scheduled appointment to confirm the pregnancy—an excruciating couple of days away.

I’d just found out I was pregnant…and just as quickly, found out I wasn’t.

And the rational side of me knew it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t from the things I was eating, or even from working in the closet. There probably was an issue. And I was lucky it happened early —I’ve heard devastating stories about when it doesn’t.

But it still hurt, and I still felt like shit.

Trying to get pregnant again afterward was conflicting. How could I even think about having another baby? What a betrayal to the little one who didn’t make it! I was a horrible person for even thinking about it.
So, I didn’t think about it.
I knew I wanted another baby. I took all my pain and guilt and stuffed it in the back of my mind and got back to LH testing and tracking and a month later, I was pregnant again.
I don’t know what all that says about me. Maybe I don’t want to know. But my kids seem to think I’m okay.

Andrea Kahn is a Michigan-based writer and artist. She writes both fiction and creative nonfiction and enjoys spending any rare bit of free time reading or watching movies.

One potato, two potato...
by Chad Broughman

As the waiter lays down the oblong plate, Eva’s heart thuds in her mouth. A glance across the table, her husband-to-be nods. She centers on the sweet potato, orange flesh vivid atop the white ceramic. And her eyes ice over. Big city lights stream through the restaurant’s windows, so manufactured compared to the starshine of her northern Michigan youth.

“You certain I can’t offer you an entrée, ma’am? A side-dish?” Eva shakes her head, still fixed on the potato’s rose-colored skin, tapered at the ends. One hand wields her fork like a warrior; with the other, she beckons her fiancé in a come-hither motion, manages to feign a rigid, half-smile deep in her jowls.

Her beloved lifts the ramekin high. “Don’t understand this, darling”—he pours brown sugar atop the spud, evenly, as if he’s practiced many times—“But I’m all ears when you’re ready.” The rich scent wafts outward, transporting Eva to her childhood table.

* * *

The Murray house smells of smoked meat. Eva watches her ten-year-old self stirring the black-eyed peas, pigtails pulled tight. Pa plops into his chair, suspenders hanging like lassos. Besides the slosh of Ma doling out vittles, it’s quiet. Eva ogles the sugar bowl, glistening in the burn of the kerosene lamp. Sugar is a rarity, especially since Pa’s talk about unions and slumping demand for iron-ore. All Eva knows is that he only goes to the mine twice a week now. And that her breaths are shorter, like she’s always running.

After grace, Eva dives into the tuber, heaping the cinnamon and sweetener high as a sand dune. She rubs her hands together, waits. Ma smiles at her indulgence. With real ones, her upper teeth show, the folds by her eyes soften. With nervous ones, her lower jaw sets, neck muscles clench like a bat’s wing. And with pretend ones, Pa is always nearby.

Right away, Eva knows her mistake. Her stomach doubles up. She wants to scoop it all back, quick as she can. But it’s best to sit still, take what’s coming. Pa clears his throat, studies the speckled mound in front of her. After filling their tins with water, Ma starts sputtering, trying to fix things. “Kids never understand money troubles. Only know when something tastes good.”

Pa drains his cup, dips his head for Ma to refill it. But he raises his arm too fast. Eva flinches, reaching for the back of her scalp where he’d once jerked her braids for nibbling on some pone before prayers. Strange to see her own butter-yellow hair tangled in his fat fingers, drooping like corn silk. “There’s a picnic at St. Michaels after mass,” Ma drivels on. With every word, Eva feels sicker. “Maybe Deacon Johnson’ll play his fiddle. We’ll make applesauce to pass, I s’ppose—”

Pa eyes Ma until she falls silent then stuffs a jumble of pheasant and beans into his mouth. After some time, Ma tests the waters and starts eating, too. Eva follows suit, taking in dollops of stew, hoping to appear soft-pedalled while stealing glimpses of the menacing pile she made. Between bites, she flattens the sugar with the bowl of her spoon, pressing into the potato’s core. She sees Ma eating like a bird, and vows to herself—never fake smile like Ma does.

Yet the storm doesn’t come. Eva is dismissed to wash dishes, head for bed. Afraid to eat the potato, she dumps it in the trash, brushes scraps over top. In her cot, she keeps an eye open, praying it’s not too good to be true, that Pa really is too tuckered to fight.

* * *

Making her way to breakfast the next morning, Eva sees Pa sipping coffee, peering over his tin. The unease is touchable. Ma is already prattling away. Sliding out her chair, Eva looks down at the fried eggs and hash. Atop them, a grainy drift of brown sugar, four fingers high. Sugar bowl sits empty. “Heard there’s a loose heifer in the town-square,” Ma sputters. Eva’s lungs pull like rubber. As she stares at the clotted mess, her eyes dampen. For a fleeting moment, she hates both parents evenly.

“We got plenty of money, ain’t we, girl?” Pa says. Then he slurps some coffee. “Hell, we’ll buy all the goddamn sugar in Michigan.” Aiming a stumpy finger, he commands, “Go on, child. Waste not, want not.”

Belly stirring, Eva digs to the bottom of the mishmash, scrapes her spoon against the plate, metal on metal. The shredded potatoes are caked with broken yolks that drip down her chin as she shovels in the wreckage. When the thickness overwhelms her, she pushes the gritty mix into her cheeks like a rodent. After the urge to retch passes, she gulps the syrupy bolus and scoops up more, holding Pa’s gaze until he rises, then steps outside, cup in hand. By the wash basin, Ma stands mute. Her silence throbbing like a wound.

In the privy, Eva throws up. She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, looks across the sloping field to the Lovett farm below, praying to catch a peek of them doing simple things, family things—kids rolling hoops; their Pa shoeing a colt; or Mrs. Lovett hanging blankets on the line. Anything at all.

* * *

There’s a stranger amongst them, just Eva, her groom-to-be, and the steaming sweet potato. She swallows the swell in her throat, announces with resolve, “I’m pregnant”—a quick peek upward—“And I’ll love fiercely, you and this child”—then glowers at the plate again. The muscles in her face begin to pull, forging into that old, familiar sham. But she sucks in hard, spreads a thumb and fingers across her stretching cheeks. And like a fox gone rabid, she strokes. Over and over, until the skin goes slack. “But in this moment, I’m plugging up some things.” All pretense faded from her lips, Eva rears the fork overhead. “It’s finished,” she says. And like a vigilante set afire, stabs downward.


Chad V. Broughman was the recipient of the Rusty Scythe Prize Book award and the Adobe Cottage Writers Retreat honor. Chad has published two short story collections—the forsaken and slighted—and is anthologized in On Loss, Scribes Valley, and Write Michigan. His fiction is in journals worldwide, including Carrier Pigeon, River Poets Journal, Sky Island Journal, Pulp Literature, and From Whispers to Roars, and he is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Chad teaches English and Creative Writing at the secondary/post-secondary levels but is most proud of his role as father of two rambunctious young sons.