There Was an Old Woman
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had a lot of kids and got aid from the state. She didn’t have any women friends because, how could she? She lived in a shoe without indoor plumbing and spent her time bouncing babies on her knee. The neighbor women whispered; she knew they’d rather complain than help her.
She trained the older kids to help care for the younger ones but she was still exhausted. You might not think it’s hard to keep a shoe clean, but when you’ve got toddlers crawling from heel to toe it’s a whole other story. Don’t even talk about diapers.
Sometimes she resented a man who flitted into her life, diddled her and disappeared. Sure, he wanted to have a beer on a Saturday night, dance to the jukebox and do the dirty. He’d watch her hips swaying to the music and it was a simple equation. He was attracted to her. He came on to her. If she said yes, she was willing. What more did he need to know?
Well, he didn’t know how fertile. Too fertile. She could practically look at a tall, dark haired man and feel a new life growing in her. If he knew that, maybe he wouldn’t say I’ll pull out, don’t worry. Then again, maybe he would still say it when neither of them was thinking straight.
They both knew it didn’t work that way. Riding bareback was dangerous, taboo. But oh, the lust felt carefree. The musky scent of a man carried her away on a cloud. Then she didn’t think about what was happening at her shoe where kids slept three and four to a bed.
A month later she’d feel nauseous. She knew it wasn’t the flu. When she called him to say she was pregnant, she knew his first question. Are you sure it’s mine? She never was. She’d say yes because fuck him. He was half of what happened.
Now she felt old. She felt used up. World weary. She loved her kids despite it all, even when she whipped them with a belt for their own good. She loved them even when DYFS came and took two babies to put them in foster care. She loved them even after her case worker told her if there was one more complaint from the bitchy neighbors, DYFS would declare her an unfit mother. But if she lost her kids, she’d have nothing. No money from the state to pay the rent on her shoe.
She wondered how women who took birth control pills lived. Birth control wasn’t available when she was running around as a girl. She’d been so naive. Her life would have been different if she’d had those damn pills. She could have had her flings with all those good looking men who tasted like the wild sea grinding on the beach. Yes, she could admit to herself now she’d been a bit of a slut, but so what? It was her body and her choice. It wouldn’t have ended up with her stitched and bound with nineteen kids into a flat-soled shoe.