Flash Fiction: “Who Loved Their Babies More”

striped mosquitoA 200-word short story for Mother’s Day — in which I attempt to blow up the motherhood statement.

Who Loved Their Babies More
by Sue Burke

The mosquito landed on the woman’s arm, she slapped it, and it fell dead. But nothing happens so easily.

She had watched it hover, tiger-striped. It landed on insubstantial legs, delicate as a fairy queen. Only females sought blood, and after a blood meal it could lay eggs. The woman considered granting its wish. Even tiny lives mattered.

But she couldn’t. The mosquito might carry a disease — not that it would care, even if it could understand. Its eggs mattered more to it than any human life. Mercy did not fit into the equation for either of them. The woman was pregnant. She had a life to protect, too. She slapped, and the mosquito fell, its long striped legs crushed and tangled.

And yet, she knew that with trillions of mosquitos and billions of humans in the world, this single killing accomplished almost nothing. It proved nothing, not even who loved their babies more. She had the brute advantage this time and she took it, that was all. Next time, who knew?

She eyed the tiny corpse on the ground. Only fools believed that motherhood meant tenderness. Motherhood meant menace. Motherhood made enemies. Mothers would stop at nothing. And she hadn’t even given birth yet.

***

Published in Thema Literary Journal Spring 2003 issue. Theme: paper tigers.

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