matriarch – throat – impossible – vinegar – apology
slice – microwave – raspberry – choose – snore
Tall hedges, even when you tried to part them you couldn’t catch a glimpse. The wooden gate was even taller; it stood old, grey. The property extended for acres, hidden, in the old part of town. In maroon letters, right at the front for passerby’s to see, ‘Raspberry Conclave’. Regina walked past it each day on her way home from school. She’d heard it was a feminist cult from her brother and his friends, “women’s commune” was how her mother had said it.
One day when Regina was walking along the sidewalk, choosing her footing deliberately so to not step on any cracks, she missed the opening of a limo door at the curb in front of her, at the gate to Raspberry Conclave. She bumped accidentally into a tall woman in a long summer dress. Regina quickly offered an apology but the woman assured her it wasn’t necessary.
“Who are you?” The woman said, leaning down.
“Regina,” Regina said, then returned the question, for she was far from a shy girl.
“I’m the matriarch,” the woman said.
“What’s in there?” Regina asked, pointing at the gate and beyond.
“Would you like to come and see? We’re having a ceremony tonight.” The matriarch asked.
Regina protested, stating the need to ask her family, but the matriarch assured her once again it wasn’t necessary. So Regina entered the property with the woman, and met all the other women inside the fancy old white house that sat in the middle of a large front yard and a large backyard.
When the sun fell, the ceremony began. It was a birth. But it was not like any birth Regina had come to learn in school. A man was rolled in on a wheelchair to the main room; he was asleep— Regina heard him snore. Then the woman guiding the ceremony sliced the man’s body— Regina didn’t want to say where. She expected to hear a scream, from the man, from herself, but her throat felt tight and she just watched— the man stayed asleep. His parts were bathed in vinegar and put in the microwave before the mother took them in; she didn’t look pregnant, not at first. Then her body swelled right in front of Regina’s eyes, and she gave birth while the rest of the conclave chanted. It was impossible, Regina thought, but then the mother lifted the baby before the group; it was wailing, and it’s whole body was clenched like a fist. It was a girl.