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"When you grow up you will struggle against an invisible cloth, when you grow up you will wake in shock, wanting to go back down to wherever it was you came from."

You fist yourself out, legs and arms and hands and feet all balled up and running with blood and vernix. He holds you, cuts you, frees you; lungs gulp and burn, lights blind. You are uncrumpled, your journey short, through a scalpel-slit doorway, you were not even sure you wanted to come out but he had you by the head, your fine silver-blonde hair a fright. You weigh four and a half pounds. Uncommonly straight limbs, the surgeon says. You peer down, your head just a handful in your mother's palm and all you see is a wild blurry kicking and so you open your mouth and the unholy noise that comes out silences even you. You sleep. You wake. You suckle. You do not cry much. Your brother holds you awkwardly. He is not quite sure if he likes you. It's too early to tell. You are bundled tightly and hurried out the door between nursing rounds. Your mother has things to do. Your cheek is pressed to her back and you listen to hammering. The wings of her shoulder blades close and shut and you struggle against the cloth hugging you too tightly. You are unravelled, handed over to warm brown arms and a smell of Lifebuoy soap and mealie pap. You are put down gently, hands and knees and tiny toes wriggling in sun-warmed sand. The sand is infinite, a vast landscape for ants on expedition. You watch until you are hungry and then you begin to weep.

When you grow up you will forget that you were once so tiny, once so vulnerable, once so perfect. When you grow up you will struggle against an invisible cloth, when you grow up you will wake in shock, wanting to go back down to wherever it was you came from. You will know that it was more than your mother's belly, more than your father's seed. You will know it was somewhere too big to imagine, too small to see and too endless to leave. Later that night, in your cot against the window, you turn in the dark to watch the fireflies dancing outside. You listen to the pattering of moths against the night-light, to the sound of your mother's heartbeat, to your father's breathing. Your unfocussed eyes wander the blue-black sky, settling on Atlas's seven daughters; and you know their glowing smudge is your very own fingerprint dabbed onto the roof of the world.

Cork, Ireland

Sandra Jensen (www. has more than thirty short-story / flash publications in literary journals, including AGNI, Sou'Wester, Word Riot, and Chautauqua. She has won a number of awards, most recently the 2012 Bosque Fiction Prize and a literature bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland to work on her first novel, a literary adventure set in war-torn Sri Lanka. Jensen currently lives in Ireland and is a dual Canadian/ British citizen.
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Title Annotation:FICTION
Author:Jensen, Sandra
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Short story
Date:Nov 1, 2012
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