Lydia is afraid of belly buttons, especially insies. The valley once attached to another being by a cord creates quakes in her entire body. At birth her own tied-off navel grew infected. Doctors kept her in an incubator for a week until her fever subsided and the reddened knot faded. Sometimes at night she smells the lingering decay.
On the beach with her college pals, only Lydia and her friend Jane wear one-piece bathing suits. Friends tease Lydia, “Show off your flat abs. Get sexy.” They don’t say this to Jane, who is sixty pounds overweight. While the bikini friends show off their navels, running up and down the sand with a Nerf football, Jane digs a hole in the sand. Lydia falls in, then pulls back up to the flat surface.
When her friends return to their beach towels, their midriffs stare back at her like concave eyes. Lydia fears being sucked in. Sun shines on sand specks dotting their bellies. A mouth opens, comes her way all skin and teeth biting the salty air. Lydia runs into the ocean, as far away from the belly buttons as possible.
Then a floating creature touches her leg. Nowhere is safe in this place of sand and holes. She leaves the beach, takes needle and thread, and sews a silver button over her own navel, closing what terrifies her night and day.
Mining for Garnet
The woman chipped away at garnet. She visited the mine once a year to gather a basket of deep red-brown stones for her jewelry-making hobby. She struck the rock formation again.
She looked behind her and to both sides, expecting to find a person in pain; no one was there. Again, she hit the rock with her chisel.
“Stop doing that!” echoed the rock.
“But I need more garnet,” said the woman.
She struck the formation several more times. A perfect oval-shaped stone came loose. Another oval stone fell into her basket.
“Those are my eyes,” said the big structure.
“Finders keepers,” she replied. “Hills shouldn’t have eyes, anyway. That’s creepy.”
She struck a final time and a long sliver of stone fell into her other hand. It was perfect for a necklace she’d wear with her new black dress.
Now the formation was quiet. She held up her ear to the rough stone, then packed up her tools and her gems for the drive home. From the passenger seat she heard, “Put me back! Put me back where I belong!”
On the thirty-mile drive, through winding roads and small towns, she heard screaming. When her head throbbed and hurt, she opened the window and there the garnet mouth into a ditch. The ruby eyes silently stared at her all the way home.
Maureen Sherbondy’s forthcoming book is Dancing with Dali (2020, FutureCycle Press). She has also published a short story collection and eight other poetry collections. She teaches English at Alamance Community College in Graham, NC.