By Kelly Gray
And so what we get, finally, is a movie of attitudes. Harold is death, Maude life, and they manage to make the two seem so similar that life's hardly worth the extra bother. The visual style makes everyone look fresh from the Wax Museum, and all the movie lacks is a lot of day-old gardenias and lilies and roses in the lobby, filling the place with a cloying sweet smell. Nothing more to report today. Harold doesn't even make pallbearer. 
                                                                                                                                                  -Roger Ebert

Vice, virtue, it's best not to be too moral; you cheat yourself out of too much life.
Maude can’t have abortions anymore. She is shrinking old. Even though she has a larger-than-life smooth wooden vulva. The dark grain has kept her within fecundity for some time, but not now. It was a practiced ritual to bring men back to the narrow beauty of her railway car, spritzing and swaying hips as each man descended into her lips. One day, it is Harold. His body catches in the tilted green light of Oyster Point Boulevard. The kettle hisses. Harold brings full palm to the smooth point of entry. Then, he goes shoulder deep. To eat. Yes, that’s Harold. After, it is Harold who is pregnant. And, with his heavy suit and bird bone shoulders, it is Harold who first suggests the abortion, although he weeps bitterly. Maude holds him in a flower field. Harold wants the baby. Buildings crash and smash around them. Harold doesn’t want the baby. Mrs. Chasen’s approval weighs like a stone around his ankle. Her precision is a scapple cutting a swimming pool in two. In the car, his mother’s hair is coiffed, sunglasses large. Her suit, the thickest wool possible for summer. She takes a pen to the clinic’s paperwork, only pausing to ask, When was the last day of your period, Harold? That’s when he leaves. He runs home to Maude in ice. Runs home to Maude in hotrod. Runs home to Maude in paintbrushes. Please, he asks, please. But Harold doesn’t have to ask or plead. Maude is waiting for him. She paints sunflowers across his growing belly. She takes him to bed. Plants a tree between his legs. Plants daisies between his legs. All of it swelling, blooming. As Harold closes his eyes, he sees his baby as a bubble. It blows out from his lips, a sweet delirium of release. Below, Maude works carefully. She enters Harold, dispersing roast beef, old books, mown grass. Further ahead, a cage. Maude is inside Harold looking for their baby. A skeleton key in her hand. She turns it within the lock of Harold’s uterus, bubbles catching in her hair. His cervix opens. A yellow canary flies out. Flies through Maude’s hands, flies out the window of Harold. Over the green hills and past the highways. Over Coleman, shitting bird love on death as it goes. 

About the author

Kelly Gray’s collections include Instructions for an Animal Body (Moon Tide Press) and Tiger Paw, Tiger Paw, Knife, Knife (Quarter Press, Gold Medal winner from IPPY). Most recently, Gray won the Tusculum Review Chapbook Prize for her manuscript The Mating Calls of the Specter and her writing has been published by Southern Humanities Review, Northwest Review, Rust & Moth, and Permafrost, among other journals and anthologies.

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