She considered briefly that the screen would reveal an extraterrestrial fetus napping somewhere in a bubble between her major organs, but decided that part of being an old woman was dismissing these thoughts. She chose to watch the clock instead. It seemed to be in a bit of a rush, she thought, ticking her life away. She thought of the Mad Hatter, the old cartoon, his buttering the clock and making a sandwich of it. Perhaps that was how you beat time. You ate it.
The nurse continued his slow rubbing across her stomach, the ultrasound gel warm and thick.
“Breathe normally,” the nurse said, stern. She must have been panting.
The question hiding in the holes where her wisdom teeth once lived hunkered deeper. It was both small and large, shrinking and swelling; trying, at once, to abort and be born.
“Do you see anything?”
There it was, an unshelled peanut falling from her mouth.
“What?” The nurse paused his rubbing and stared. Probably she sounded drunk, or like she was speaking an alien language. His eyebrows were impatient. He had other stomachs to rub with his eyeless, all-seeing machine; other livers to examine; other plagues to diagnose.
“Do you see anything?” She thought she sounded human but couldn’t be sure.
She couldn’t see what the screen revealed: he had it tilted toward him, a secret. She realized watching his face might provide some clue, so she turned her attention from the clock to him. If only he was wearing glasses—she could peer into the reflection; spy on the shadowy masses he surely saw.
She imagined the dark terrain of her body, its geography of organ continents and the oceans of blood between them. Her blood. She could almost feel the rays or waves or whatever of the ultrasound piercing through her skin and fat, a dull slicing into the private world inside. Through the protective bars of her ribs. No defense. The invisible made visible; the hidden revealed.
The nurse spluttered, the gel smearing down his forearm as she rose, her shirt still tucked up in her beige bra.
“Ma’am, the procedure isn’t over—”
She was already gone, power-walking down the hall empty-handed, formalities being called down the corridor after her—ma’am and miss and Mrs. Jones. The door was in front of her, her palms against the cool metal bar, and she was pushing through into October, into a street that would lead her to safety.
The Mazda struck her body from the side. The sound was dull.
On the ground, little pieces of stone and glass made marbled indentations in her skin—she imagined it as a pattern like scales, the smooth perfection of a quick green snake. She turned her neck slowly, becoming, charting the path on which she would slither toward freedom, away from the crowd gathering. Beside her was a bird, longer dead. Its body was open, the terrain of its heart and spleen solved.
Mrs. Jones followed the map.