~Originally published in Psychopomp~

It was the child that ruined everything. My poor wife thinks she can do it again. In her defense, once you’ve baked a batter-baby, it’s hard not to keep trying. She still wants a kid, and I don’t have the heart to turn off the oven. She experiments: more sugar, less ginger, buckwheat, rice flour. Lately, the house reeks of cinnamon and clove. She tries for a girl this time. Says girls are less fidgety, less likely to run away. But they all just come out cookies—tear-salted, lifeless cookies. The threshers come around some evenings, clumping up the porch steps in heavy boots and a soupy stink of beer, to ask if she’s considered a commercial oven so she could make something big as a man. “Someone willing to work,” they say. Last week the mowers stopped us as we walked by the fields, their eyes downcast to the cricket-humming wheat stubble. The youngest came forward blushing, dragging a crude sculpture, five feet tall, scythe blades twisted, heated and hammered into the outline of a woman, outlandishly heavy in the hips and breasts. “Cookie cutter,” the boy mumbled, “We heard you’re getting a bigger oven.” The cow gives no milk, only blood. In thrall to some dark faith, she threads her tail with glass shards and pennyweight nails; scourges herself for her appetites, her too-strong earthly love of clover. The pig fled to the hills, fearful of us all, grew skinny on a diet of lichen and loneliness. He sleeps on a high cliff, shivering in the nightmare of his own deliciousness. The fox opened a store and got rich selling us blades and oil, butter and flour, sugar and milk. That bastard smiles all the time, smells ever so slightly of ginger. With his nimble feet, keen eyes and sharp teeth, he’s never even known what it’s like to be hungry.