Glenn Shaheen

Our baby was going to be born five months early. We thought it would die, but the doctors said they revolutionized a new medical technique, they wanted us to try it out. The baby would have to live in a probiotic solution for the first two years of its life. It would be genderless, it would have no eyelids. “What about the cost?” we asked. “What about the human cost?” they replied. “Is it even a human yet?” we asked, but they had already drawn up the paperwork. We named the baby Hamnet. When family comes to visit we take the baby carefully out of the probiotic solution, a mixture of yogurt and medicine in a small Tupperware container. They pretend to be happy, to be excited, but they are nervous. Hamnet has no eyelids, can only be viewed in dimmest candlelight. We lined our windows with tin foil like drug dealers. We take Hamnet out and say, “Here is our pride and joy!” but nobody ever wants to hold the baby. We have to lower it into the probiotic solution gently, so we use a Kleenex that we pull apart at the last second, Hamnet falling the last centimeter into the yogurt, sinking in and writhing a little bit. We want our baby to grow up and have a full life, a life full of loves and disasters, and the doctors are sure it will live. They have been right so far. “Is it of average intelligence?” we ask, nervously. The doctors say sure, but that instead of a brain there appears to be a writhing mass, a hive of bacteria and plankton. It could be the smartest creature on the planet, but we overheard our father say it was a bug with human meat. When we hold Hamnet in our palm, it darts its head around, it makes clicking noises with its tiny mouth. Too much air is a razor against its skin. Outside, the city constantly rearranges itself, but when we emerge the street names are back in their places, maybe only an inch or two off.


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