A Red Yarn Baby

For some reason the order seemed important and in all the tumult of the birth they were worried they’d forget which was which and who had priority — so to speak — so when that first pudgy limb came grasping into the air the midwife, quick as thought, tied a piece of red yarn around it. “First!” she cried, then, “Whoops!” as it went back inside. The mother groaned and deep sounds of fighting came from low in her belly.

“What the deuce,” muttered the father, and squeezed her hand and wiped the sweat-darkened hair back from her forehead. “Breathe, breathe; soon now, soon now.” Strange faces pushed against her skin, mouths opening and closing, teeth — so it seemed — kneading her like bread. She groaned again.

When the second pudgy limb came out, it came out heelwards and the midwife swore and would have done something but they came sliding out all at once like they’d arranged things between them so; the heel to a body to a hand to a heel to a body to a hand with a twist of red yarn around it. Priorities indeed, permutations.