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When My Aunt in Guangzhou Bought Sheep’s Placenta and Found a Fetus inside, She Buried It under the Huangpi Tree That Grew in Our Back Yard

When My Aunt in Guangzhou Bought Sheep’s Placenta and Found a Fetus inside, She Buried It under the Huangpi Tree That Grew in Our Back Yard

Audrey Bauman

 
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A nutrient-rich organ, the placenta, and she probably cooked with it often. Its presence in soup could have restored her life or brightened her skin. She might have added cubes of blood or scraps of liver too, but I’m sure placenta was the star ingredient, the pièce de résistance she built the recipe around. I’m sure she screamed when she opened the butcher’s package and saw the extra surprise waiting inside—the hint of a ribcage already half grown; the stubs of four legs all curled up, malleable; a knobby, seahorse-like head with a faintly protruding nose. She probably dropped it in the sink and let it stare back at her, its form still blurry around the edges. A pungent liquid from the package swirling downward, leaving the creature behind. 

Her mind darted to and fro, so quick she forgot to wash her hands. But where to put it? Throwing it in the trash felt wrong. She may have deliberated for some time before settling on a backyard burial—perhaps asked my uncle or the neighbors. She may have whispered a short prayer when she lowered the creature into the ground. What I do know is that after she buried the lamb beneath our huangpi tree, the one we’d planted in our backyard at least a decade previously, all the fruit it bore, which until then had tasted merely so-so, grew large and sour and yellow and delicious.

 
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Audrey Bauman is an MFA student at Northern Michigan University and a fiction reader for Passages North. She writes about family, identity, and all things spooky. Her tweets can be found @haylin42.

 
 
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