Genevieve LeRoi is fifty years old and she is pregnant and she is not married. Before dawn this morning she had set herself down here on the grassy cliff above the mouth of the river, watching ripples of ocean waves struggle upstream. Her eyelids were dark and swollen from her drinking, and her lips stuck to her cigarette. She expected to survive. She waits for Alex.
Alex LeRoi, who is Genevieve’s older brother, has done everything a father could have done. Alex had scolded Genevieve every day in a protective, worrisome, and attentive way while the headstrong, remorsefully ideal, gently pale Genevieve did as she pleased.
Alex, always thin, going bald, dressing with a tie, his eyes glancing off of his watch, has religion. Alex is the only one who knows that Genevieve is pregnant. The two of them, as children, were such opposites that they were always together, knee-deep in need, squabbling, teasing, crying. Genevieve dug up worms so that Alex would take her fishing in his rowboat. Genevieve thought it was mean to catch fish. Alex wanted only to look at them, so he told her that fish felt no pain. Genevieve said that she wanted to be a nurse. Alex said that he wanted to be a doctor. They would throw the fish back into the water, unless the fish swallowed their only hook.
Genevieve felt since her pregnancy that Alex had been no real help, no real resistance, no one to hold, no one to push. Whenever Genevieve decided against the pregnancy, Alex nodded with all the wisdom of statistics. Whenever Genevieve felt obliged to give the child birth, Alex hugged her. Whenever Genevieve decided to keep the baby, Alex said it would keep her young.
This morning is Mothers’ Day Sunday. Genevieve and Alex are supposed to visit Mother’s condominium, driving in Alex’s car that looks as good as the day he got it from Father, nearly 20 years ago. It is never Genevieve’s idea to visit Mother on Mothers’ Day Sunday. Genevieve can close her eyes and see that on this morning, the condominium staff will have provided a breakfast that would taste funny to Mother. Mother would push the tray away and sit on the edge of her bed, leaning on her cane, glaring. Mother, tidy, determined, and suspicious.
Father, quiet, smiling, yielding with gentle humor, died without much fuss nearly 20 years ago.
Genevieve reclines in the cool grass above the mouth of the river, feeling the blood dry, waiting to survive, waiting for Alex. Alex had jokingly named their unborn child “Joe King”. “He’ll have to be a fighter,” Alex had said with his worrisome concern. Genevieve had felt “Joe King” sparring inside her, reaching downstream. Sometimes, in her mind, Genevieve had heard another voice and then there were times when Genevieve had been sure that she was sharing her eyes. “Joe King” would not be a child to take “no” and pushing against Genevieve he had wanted out.
Genevieve kneels in the grass beside “Joe King”. It is now the end of the unfinished child. “Joe King” lies still in the morning light that crawls over his tiny hands and feet.
(homage to Gertrude Stein)