Sally-Anne Macomber is, in fact, two people: one who contributed her first online publication to Pure Slush in February 2014, and the other who took part in 2014 A Year in Stories. This second Sally-Anne is also in the throes of turning this latter contribution into a book, of sorts, presumably to be published by Pure Slush ... maybe. And this second Sally-Anne, who apparently lives in Toronto though there are those who beg to differ, has also contributed the story below.
Alison Hooperstone sits back in her seat on the Number 7 bus and stares through the streaky window onto Macquarie Street. Her fingers, tucked inside her pink leather handbag, rustle the plastic bag of sand wedged at the bottom beside her mobile ’phone. An envelope, the address written in pink ink, sticks out from the folds of her purple ostrich skin purse.
Since that day last week, blowing through a straw and creating haphazard designs on the table for Ludmilla the sand reader to interpret, Alison has found nothing that even hints at the number 4.
Ludmilla’s beady eyes had peered out from under her greasy grey-brown fringe.
“Four,” she said. She scooped up the sand in her hands and dumped it back in the plastic shopping bag open on the wooden table, her enormous cleavage wobbling with each dip and scrape and jerk. “You be lookink for four.”
She brushed sand off her hands then smacked them together like a happy seal.
“Is your magic number, this four,” Ludmilla added, “give you everythink you want.”
Alison picked up the bag of sand (gathered at a spot important to her – the very spot on Semaphore beach where Christophe had proposed to her eight years – and thirty-two attempts at getting her pregnant – ago), tied the plastic in a knot, and stashed it deep inside her handbag.
The bus pulls away from Bus Stop 9 and Alison clutches her handbag to her stomach. She glances through the dirty window again and sees a tall thin woman strapped inside a white pencil skirt and a tight filmy blouse, teetering along the street on red stilettoes. There’s no escaping it, is there? she thinks. It’s just the kind of outfit Dervla would wear.
Dervla, Chistophe’s ex-wife, had sat on their green three-seater sofa two days ago and said, eyes directed only at Christophe, “Look, the kids really want another sibling and my uterus is perfectly fine and I’d be happy to rent it out for a while so you can have the child Alison clearly can’t give you.”
Sitting on the footstool, her knees under her chin, forty-two year old Alison had gasped, then hiccupped, twice. If the plan succeeded, Christophe would have six children with Dervla and none with her. That’s 600% more kids than she and Christophe shared, 100% up from the current 500% Dervla and Christophe co-parented.
“We’d just have to fuck to do it though, probably more than once, maybe even three times to get the rhythm right,” Dervla said. “Oh I didn’t mean to be so crude. I shouldn’t have said fuck. I should have said, make love.”
And then baring her teeth in a grimace, Dervla shook her chin and shivered. And finally looking at Alison, she’d said, “Sorry, but I’m just not a turkey-baster kind of gal.”
The Number 7 bus screeches to a halt beside Bus Stop 10. Two doors smack open and Alison steps onto the footpath. She opens her handbag and looks at the address written in pink ink on the back of the envelope. 13 Macquarie Street.
No, she is not going to count her steps to her destination.
A wind blows hot across Alison’s face as her feet scuff up the street. She’s partial to wedge heels but no, no high heels any more, only flat court shoes now. High heels tip the womb at a dangerous angle, so she’s read at least seven times on the internet. “Lots of fluids too, to increase your fertility, and lots of vegetables and less animal protein,” her friend Mandy said only yesterday. “Munch on pumpkin seeds and avoid alcohol, even as a deodorant.”
Alison looks up and sees the brass ‘13’ screwed on the gate, Dr S. McCracken, Gynaecological Hypnotherapist engraved on a shiny plate beside it.
She pushes the gate open. And feet scuffing on red brick pavers, she takes eight steps towards a large white door. Reaching up, she bangs the large brass knocker, three times.
The large white door opens, revealing a tall man with a blond crewcut standing just inside the doorway, dressed in a serious brown suit. Alison looks at the man’s hands hanging by his sides.
“Dr McCracken?” she says, then holds her breath for three seconds as she waits for an answer.
“Yes,” Alison says, and flashes her teeth, letting out a long sigh. “I’m wondering if you’re the one who can finally get me pregnant?”
“Well, we’ll see if we’re a good fit,” Dr McCracken says, and smiles. He stretches out his right hand, and as Alison clasps it in hers, she sees a large white scar, where his thumb should be.
published 28 February 2015