Short Story Review: Between Sternum and Heart (Megan Giddings)

To be upfront, this is a male pregnancy story. I never thought I would read or enjoy a story around this concept, mainly due to a lot of bad publicity around Mpreg stories on fan fiction. But instead of playing with biology for laughs, Giddings’ story is serious speculation on youth and parenthood.

In Giddings’ world men give birth, only this isn’t mammalian style birth; these babies grow as eggs jutting from the body. Tumors come to mind and fifteen year old narrator, Dylan, is terrified of his pregnancy. He has reason to be frightened because even by the standards of this alternative world, this isn’t an ordinary birth. Dylan’s egg grows in a dangerous place: right between his sternum and his heart. Unlike “other boys carrying eggs in calves and arms going out to the woods and poking the eggs with pen knives” aborting this egg could end Dylan’s life. To throw in further horror (enough to make a person of any gender squeamish), the doctor doesn’t know what Dylan will give birth to.

“‘It could be snakes.’ Dr. Ellen said.” and no, she’s not joking.

cover art. Gargoyle 2016.
cover art. Gargoyle 2016.

The story is told in vignettes across the pregnancy, giving added weight to the passage of time and Dylan’s fear. And in such a short piece, Giddings knows to balance the bizarreness of her world with enough familiar details to keep us looped in and never lost. In many unsettling ways, it is our world: Dylan has friends; his mother makes him a snack after school; he takes geometry. The familiar makes his possible death, and his fatherhood to an unknown creature a borderline horror story

Yet, no matter its specific genre, Dylan’s story is ultimately one about parenthood and love.

You can read “Between Sternum and Heart” in Gargoyle 2016.