The only memento I kept of Marc was one cracked tooth, an anniversary gift punched right out of my mouth. Said tooth had been glued back together by an unlicensed dentist before it fell apart again in my sleep. I swallowed the shards and woke to a dull stomach ache and a chipped smile.
Years after Marc had abandoned me and our scab of a town, the memento took me all the way to the International Whistling Championship in Osaka, Japan. My winning tweets were operettas and Disney show tunes. With that, I became a celebrated somebody in my sleepy neighbourhood, a status that I wholly abused. On my afternoon walks, I’d trot the block and whistle to make all the little trolls clamour around me and make myself feel loved. These were the only children I would ever have, or that’s what I thought, before Marc showed up on my porch one day, a baby tucked under his arm like a sack of rice.
“Behold!” he said, thrusting it forward. “Your daughter.”
“Uh huh,” I said, looking the baby up and down. It had African diaspora written all over it, plus Marc’s mystery bag of Anglo roots. None of me, nor my continent, nor the East.
“Last night, I dreamed of an angel. He touched my forehead, and suddenly I knew I was a holy prophet of God,” said Marc. “Together, you and I have sired the saviour of our wretched world.” He shoved the infant in my face. Its spit flicked me between the eyes when it opened its mouth to cry.
Then, when gazing down the baby’s gullet, I saw the tooth — a white-yellow triangle peeking out of a roof of gums, slanted and unsure of its path. Just the right shape to be the missing puzzle piece for my own mouth.
I took the baby and raised it to the light of the sun, inspecting the gift horse from all angles. “So, you knocked up some other crazy bitch and you’re dumping this one on me.” As I spoke, it stopped wailing and peered at me with brown, watery eyes.
“May the fruit of our labour uplift us from our dreary existence.” Marc nudged the screen door wider with his foot before planting it in the house. “She has already taught me many things, Lord’s psalms like, ‘I’m sorry, I never should have done that.’”
“I see,” I said, blocking his attempt to weedle his way inside. “I don’t believe in God. But she is cute.” I shut the door in his face.
His muted screams had a dull, thudding quality, easily ignorable when one turned up the TV. I bounced the infant on my lap before searching her onesie. Written on its butt was one of those divine messages Marc had been raving about: “If found, call Carol at …” I bounced the baby more and considered it.
L.D. Nguyen lives inside of comic books but frequently emerges from this 2-D universe to write short fiction and creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in Broken Pencil, Curve, Vine Leaves, and others. She lives in the Bay Area, California with her cat.