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Koi Pond

By Cathy Ulrich From Issue No. 2

In the Morning, the Pond’s Reflection

Before we moved there, the people kept a pond. The realtor showed us where it had been, koi in there, she said, I think they’re called koi. What she showed us was only an empty pit.

My wife’s belly was growing round from pregnancy, and she knelt beside the pond.

We could fill it again, she said, couldn’t we, and moved her hand through the air like she was stirring water.

The baby wasn’t mine, and she wouldn’t say who the father was. At our wedding, we strode down the aisle together in matching dresses, except hers had been altered for the baby.

For the baby. My wife liked saying things were for the baby.

This room will be for the baby, she said when we moved our things in.

She said, We should paint it yellow, for the baby.

She wanted it yellow like a banana, but not the skin. The inside. I brought her swatches from the home improvement store, and she said they all reminded her of pudding. She wanted to paint the room herself, for the baby, and I could handle refilling the pond. She told me she had found a place nearby that sold koi and supplies.

Can’t you imagine how beautiful it was? she said, and showed me how the light would have reflected off of the pond and into the room she had chosen for the baby. How the shadows of fish would have swum on the walls.

I’ll stay here, my wife said, and paint. She had old sheets spread out on the floor in the baby’s room, and her father’s old flannel shirt on, half-unbuttoned at the bottom. I kissed her goodbye. I kissed her belly and said goodbye baby, which she liked for me to do.

It’s good for the baby, she said, to already know love.

When I came home with the koi in a bucket, she had a drop of paint on the tip of her nose that looked like she might have put it there on purpose. She bumped her nose against mine so we’ll match, but no paint came off. She peered down into the bucket.

Oh, they’re bigger than I thought, she said.

She had me spread a blanket on the ground near the pond so we could watch the fish once they’d been put in. They were too heavy to pour, and I had to reach into the bucket and pull them out one by one. Something about their flesh made me think of baby skin.

My wife said: It’s because the baby swims in me, like that.

We sat on the blanket and watched the koi in the pond. I kissed the back of my wife’s neck and up and down her shoulders, but she wanted me to put my head up to her belly instead, and listen to the sound of the baby inside her.

I wish the baby was mine.

It is yours, she said. It’s ours.

That night, we slept on the floor of the baby’s room, curled together like Matryoshka dolls, the baby nesting inside my wife and me wrapped round the both of them. We lay on the sheets that my wife had spread on the floor. We inhaled the scent of banana-colored paint.

In the morning, we’ll see the reflection of the koi pond, my wife said. She pressed her body against mine. We’ll be able to see what the baby will see.

About Cathy Ulrich More From Issue No. 2