The Bukowski Agency - The Birth Yard - Excerpt

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The Birth Yard






The Birth Yard

a novel by Mallory Tater


SEX IS AT NOON. I go to bathe and drink tea and put on my black robe. My initials are stitched into the sleeve but it doesn’t fit well and doesn’t feel like mine. Every eighteen-year old girl gets to wear one when she is introduced to sex in December. My robe arrived in late November but I was too shy to try it on. My initials, S and U, embroidered on it look too real. I feel too identified, too coordinated. I face the water closet mirror. “I can’t wear this in public. Everyone will know.”

My mother sticks her hands on her hip, squints at me. “You want them to know. It’s a good thing. An honour.”

Ambrose is coming to walk with me to the tents. He’ll hold my hand and escort me. Gram Evelyn used to tell me about a time when there were bonds between a woman and Man way before pregnancy. Babies are what make a union. We aren’t solidified until the day our child is born. But we can parade and walk and hold hands and feel a sense of union. I haven’t seen Ambrose in so long, I feel like we are meeting all over again.

He comes to the door and He looks pale, tired. Why doesn’t His drinking bother me? It doesn’t. I get it. I get Him. He hugs me and says my robe is soft and I smell nice.

My mother pours Him tea and He sits on the sofa. The flowers on the arm of the couch stretch to His slender hand. He grips the mug of tea so tight I can see His hand pulsing, shaking. My mother offers Him breakfast cake and He says He’s not hungry, that we need to go soon. My mother is doing all the talking. My body feels heavy, like a casing, a wall sealing in all the mania and nerves inside.

“I’m glad it’s you,” my mother tells Him. “I really like your family. I’m glad they chose you to be Sable’s Match.”

My mother barely knows His family. Ambrose nods and says He likes our family, too. Gram Evelyn has not come downstairs. I know she is nervous and still stuck in the old ways. She wishes I had a choice. She lives for her mother’s old life; the free thought that she felt guided her actions then. Iris chose to join Lynx. Iris chose to have sex with Lynx.

Ambrose is in denim, no stupid robe, and no floral crown in His hair. My mother sets mine on my head and it digs in. “You can take it off during sex,” she tells me.

We have ten minutes to get to the tents. I am worried my body won’t smell musty or attractive. I am worried I am too hairless and dull, doll-like for Ambrose. Too clean and prudish even though every girl is the same. We have just been taken off DiLexa, so we haven’t bled in months and now we aren’t protected any longer from sex and semen. We are vulnerable and perfect, fertile. We are how the Men want us.

Ambrose clutches my hand and He’s clammy. It makes me feel better. I kiss His cheek. We walk toward the tents. Women and their daughters and young children eat lunch and drink tea on their porches even though it is cold. So they can see us. So they can know and gossip. We pass at least six girls I went to Lessons with whose tent-times will be later in the month or this week. I am one of the first sessions.

There are tall candles lit once we get to the square, and the fence that surrounds the area is laced with large white flowers with red centers. My mother’s friend, Polah, is there beside the main tent, the tent where the food and drink were during the Arrivals. She stands inside with a clipboard. Her glasses slip off her nose. She clears her throat and says it’s nice to see me. She nods at Ambrose who lets go of my hand to shake hers.

We sit in metal fold-out chairs and wait with other Matches assigned this afternoon. I am glad when I see my friend Mamie. She sits beside us. Her Match Isaac is shirtless with large black glasses on and no shoes. Primal and regal and strange. They aren’t holding hands when they arrive at the tent. He sits next to her.

My former female classmates trickle from the tent with other former male classmates and ones I don’t know who are older. They have just had sex and they’re flushed. Some look in love and happy, with a lightness to them, holding their partners’ arms tight. Some look like nothing in their lives has changed at all and I wonder which emotion I’ll feel and which one is better.

Mamie twiddles her thumb and says I better be first. Her robe is too big on her and I step on her foot gently so she knows I am here and I care. We are not supposed to speak or distract from anything happening in the six small tents to the left of us. I wonder which will be mine. I hear a few shrieks from Tent Five and wonder if the girl in there is all right. My mother says sex makes you moan and shriek and I hope it’s because her partner’s sex feels good and tight inside her, not because He is hurting her.



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