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Winning Writers' Stories

“Ears” by Molly Giles

The first thing Cal said when he saw the baby was “Thank God she’s got my ears” – an innocent observation, no harm intended, and in fact Cal did have handsome ears, small and rosy and pointy and as flat against his head as two pressed palms--but Petra didn’t like hearing that and struggled up in her hospital bed to tell him so. “I never knew you didn’t like my ears,” she said. Cal didn’t answer. He wasn’t listening. Handsome as his ears were, they were often attuned to things other than his wife’s voice and right now he was more interested in his daughter’s tiny breaths, the beat of a baseball game from a television down the hall, and the rumblings of his stomach (he hadn’t eaten since Petra had gone into labor the night before). He continued to beam down at their baby. “So all this time you’ve hated my ears,” Petra continued, “and you’ve admired your own. I never guessed that you thought your ears were better than mine. You are vainer than I suspected, Cal. Colder.” Cal looked up, eyes glowing. “She’s beautiful,” he said, of the baby. “I thought you thought I was beautiful,” Petra said, or should have said right then and there to get it over with. She leaned back against the pillows, the birth blood still pooling hot between her legs. “I thought you thought I was the love of your life. But now I see I was wrong. I’ve been replaced. You love that baby more than you love me and you love her because she reminds you of you. That’s pure narcissism, Cal. You should be ashamed.” Cal was not ashamed then, but over the remaining years of their marriage he became ashamed, and confused, and, of course, increasingly deaf, and by the end of their marriage he was silent as well. The baby bloomed into womanhood and one day Petra glanced over at her daughter astonished by the perfection of her ears. “They are exactly like your father’s,” she began but the daughter had heard enough in her lifetime and covered them both with two pressed palms.

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About the Author: Molly Giles has published a novel, three award-winning collections of short stories, and a chapbook of flash fictions. She has new and forthcoming work in NEW MICRO (Norton) and SHORT-FORM CREATIVE WRITING, (Bloomsbury). Web page: mollygiles.com

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