Janine Kovac’s Spinning

Janine Kovac weaves the stories about premature birth of her twin boys with experiences from her professional ballet-dancing career with the difficult path of learning to write about these experiences — and the result is a very effective and moving narrative, and a kind of a writers’ guide that might do more good than lots of more technical craft manuals.

Leaning against the bathroom door, I’m trying to breathe and at the same time I’m trying not to breathe. I watch myself from above–a woman with dark hair in a light green hospital gown and an enormous belly stretched taut. I can’t see my face; I can only see my back. There’s a tug–as if gravity is pulling me to the ground, reaching inside, and sucking life out.

Everyone thinks that an out-of-body experience means watching yourself from the rafters. That’s just the visual perspective. There’s also the feeling of being deeply rooted inside your vital organs, as if your heart were the center of the universe. In the same breath you observe from the outside and feel from within.

Check out Janine’s website and buy the book.

Sick Babies out in Confrontation

My story “Sick Babies” is out in Confrontation. Here’s the opening:

The baby’s sick. The mom brings him to the park every day, in late afternoons, and he sits limp in his stroller, dazed, unsmiling, eyes expressionless, pupils without any depth. The mom doesn’t seem to be aware of his condition. “Say hi to the gentlemen, Jacob,” she directs, rolling the stroller by the bench where we’re playing checkers. The baby doesn’t bat an eyelid. “He’s a little sleepy,” the mother apologizes. “It’s the weather we’ve been having.”

This afternoon, she parked the stroller right beside us, dropped her tattered backpack on a bench on the other side of the path, and took out a pack of cigarettes. She lifted the canvas canopy over the baby’s head, as though this were protection enough, and smoked one cigarette after another in rapid succession. We averted our noses, but, luckily, the wind blew the smoke in a different direction. True, some of us used to smoke in our youth, but it’s been long since that we’ve kicked the habit. The woman’s entire person showed signs of wear: unwashed hair going gray at the roots, tattoos on her arms looking ashen and flaccid, countless runs in the black hose. The baby stared right at us with his unseeing eyes.

Among ourselves, we’re convinced that the baby’s autistic, or worse. “Shouldn’t he be in some kind of an institution?” we debate.

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