Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci as Cleopatra (detail), Piero di Cosimo, c.1490

by Kari Shemwell

My uterus is falling out. The doctor says there’s nothing to be done, that it may feel like I’m sitting on a ball. This is the same doctor who will later tell my mother that her stage four colon cancer is just gas and she needs to lay off the dairy. Two years from now, we’ll bury her in Riverside Cemetery next to a famous psychic, and in that moment I’ll wish I had buried my uterus there, between my mother and a man who is supposed to rise from the dead. But it will be long gone by then.

At first, I offered my uterus to my mom. She was having some pain in her midsection and worried it might be reproductive. But she said no, if her uterus was causing the pain she would just have it cut out. She did not need another. This was the same day she cut out popcorn, which she often cooked in bacon grease and ate for dinner. She thought the kernels could be collecting in colon pockets. That’s what she called them. That’s why she bled on the toilet tissue.

So I offered it to the butcher, thinking there might be a market for it. People in the city go nuts for farm-to-table. My uterus comes from just next door. And didn’t some women keep placentas in Tupperware and eat them like giraffes?

The butcher didn’t know the answer to that question. He looked squeamish when I poked my pelvic region, saying, any day now.

He told me he could do all parts of an animal, but he simply could not do that. He wouldn’t know how to dice it, clean it even. This guy, the man who manages to single-handedly smoke 200 Boston Butts for his son’s soccer team booster every fall, wouldn’t know how to prepare a tiny uterus.

I tried to tell him that it didn’t even need to be deboned. Couldn’t he just google it?

No, he told me, what would his wife think?

I went to the Baptist preacher. In his office he kept a small wooden box on his desk with the words “candy” iron-pressed on the lid. He offered it to me, but when I slid the lid backwards, a spring-rigged plastic snake popped out and bit my finger. It didn’t really bite, of course. It’s plastic. He got a kick out of the startled look on my face, though.

Brother Greg, I said, what should I do? He had changed his name from Jason, because both Peter and Paul had name-changes, but for some reason he chose Greg.

He said, what do you expect, dear? We haven’t seen you here since high school.

What he really meant was, we haven’t seen you here since your dad found pictures of my cock in your mom’s Hotmail inbox.

I said, isn’t there a Bible story about this? Maybe one with Hannah, or something about burying body parts in the desert? Couldn’t I just put it on the altar?

He said, not that I know of, but it sounds like maybe Leviticus, and you can’t put it on the altar because the choir already ordered Christmas poinsettias to go there.

So I said thanks, Brother Greg. God Bless.

Then, I offered it to you. I don’t know why I thought you’d want it. Maybe it could be something special between us, another secret we could share.

Of course, you said no. You couldn’t possibly accept such a thing from me. Even though you love me and you’re making arrangements to leave your wife, it’s just too generous a gift.

But I could see it in your eyes. You were happy that my uterus was falling out. You already have three kids, and I know you’re trying to get your wife to have a hysterectomy because you refuse to get snipped. Now you don’t have to worry about me, about getting stuck or even wearing a condom.

You said, pin it to your shirt. Wear it around like a badge of honor, a sign of womanhood.

You teach poetry at the college, so you always talk like this.

When it does fall out, you won’t even know. You’ll be sleeping in the bedroom naked and I’ll be in the bathroom, alone. I’ll clean myself off, wrap the uterus in paper towels, cup it like water in my palms, carry it out the patio door, and drop it in the dumpster. Later, when you kiss below my belly button, you’ll have no idea that there is nothing under the skin.


About the Author:

Kari Shemwell lives in New Orleans and works in the film industry. She was born and raised in western Kentucky, where she attended Murray State University. She is a current MFA student at Sierra Nevada College, and has previously published fiction in the Masters Review anthology and Stonecoast Review, and poetry in 3Elements Review.