n a d i n e    d a r l i n g

Amazing Animal Facts


...A pigís orgasm lasts for thirty minutes

It happens before Carl leaves for work and you know itís happening. There is something subtle in the shift: the bed is unmade, the shades are down. After, consider the ceiling. Think: my life is going to change. Carl kisses you and changes his shirt. You pack his things into his briefcase: a peanut butter sandwich, his mead notebook and Mont Blanc pen, Edwin OíConnorís All In The Family, a box of Dots.

Go shopping. Treat yourself to sunglasses and a small book called Amazing Animal Facts. You like to be amazed. A baby swan is a Cygnet. A female cat is a Queen. Call Carl. Say, do you know the proper name of a baby whale? He says, sure, a Regis.

He comes home from work with a bucket of chicken and a pint of Ben and Jerryís. Lie together on the couch and watch Nightline, all about how shitís coming apart and how there is no safety anywhere and even if there was some jerk would just steal your identity and youíd end up in jail. Say, well, thatís encouraging.

A pregnant goldfish is called a twit

The tests are two for fourteen dollars at Brooks pharmacy. Read the directions carefully. Open this, uncap this, urinate on this, wait.

Read your book. The gestation of a rabbit is one month. New Yearís Day is the official birthday of every horse. Do not stare menacingly at the test. Do not consider your fate, the fate of every sad woman on your block: sad eyes, strong arms, teetering on a playground bench discussing lactation with a stranger, a self-help book squeezed between the thighs.

After five minutes study the test. What is red? What is one line? Stand by yourself in the bathroom, the directions spread out and held with both hands like a map, discovering what is red and what is a line.

The King Cobra is the only poisonous snake with parenting skills

Tell Carl. He says, well, thatís wonderful. Say, no, itís not wonderful, itís the worst thing thatís ever happened. How will you join the circus now? How will you stalk the runways in Milan?

Maybe if you lost it you would be relieved.

Consider children on the street. You expect them to come to you, to innately know that youíre stowing their brethren stealthily beneath your heart, an offering of sickly comfort like a fistful of chewed crackers. You want children to bring gifts to you, slippers, bath beads, John Grisham novels. Walk by the park like some sympathetic Mafia Don, all pushed belly and splayed feet.

Rats canít vomit

Throw up with a voracity that impresses you. Appease the baby like itís some rumbling underground god, omnipotent, dreamed but unseen. Agree to supply what it needs just so long as it doesnít burn down the plantation or smite the crops. Eat ice chips, Little Debbies, baby carrots.

Say, whatís a stupid name and Carl says, Carl. Laugh. Say, what about Rocket? Think about a handsome boy named Rocket and how his name would be an instant pass to football, commercials, girls. Think about how everyone loves rockets. Fall asleep atop Carl on the couch feeling like a hand in a hand in a hand.

Geese grieve

Wake and itís happening and know that itís happening. Wake Carl. Beside you he looks pale and young and, almost disturbingly so, dependant. Say, something is not right.

You are not relieved. Carl drives you to the hospital. On the phone to work he says, Iím sick, Iím sick today, and, you think I give a fuck about that? Then he looks at you, smiling frantically, and grips your knee. Remain calm, then eerily calm. Imagine your skin as aluminum siding, your insides as simple machines like levers and pulleys, steady, steady. Think about how everyone loves rockets.

Turn to Carl. Say, Elephants donít jump.

Carl pats your knee, mutters about traffic.

Say, The camel has three eyelids.

Please, says Carl, try to rest. Weíll be there in two seconds.

Say, the goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.

Please stop, says Carl; he is sweating, crying. Please.

But you canít stop because there is so much to tell. So many facts, so much that is real, and if you stop for a minute youíll remember where you are and how will you live then? How? The cockroach can live nine days without its head. The snail mates for life. Only the female polar bear hibernates.

Say, Carl, but he wonít look at you anymore. Heís stopped the car. His head is in his hands.




NADINE DARLING is broke-ass and sick with love. Her fiction has appeared in Night Train, Salt Flats Annual, Smokelong Quarterly and is forthcoming in GUD and The Duck and Herring Pocket Field Guide. She lives in Winthrop, Ma, with her husband and fellow writer, Kenneth Ryan, and their Welsh Corgi, Alex. Visit them at www.kennay.com.