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ONCE HOME, Pingping broke down, sobbing wretchedly and blaming herself for the loss of the child. She went on saying, “Our baby sacrificed herself for me, because she was afraid I couldn’t survive the childbirth. She didn’t want to put my life in danger.” The more she raved, the harder she cried.

Nan could no longer control himself either and wept too. He felt a numbing pain sinking deeper and deeper in him and squeezing every ounce of his strength out of him. If only he had thought of the possibility of such a loss. If only he hadn’t raised his hopes. Now his world was upside down.

Pingping lit two squat white candles and placed them on the bar table in the living room, on either side of a large yellow chrysanthemum stuck in a cylindrical vase. Not absolutely sure of the result of the sonogram, Nan phoned Dr. Walker at the medical center. The bad news had already reached there, and the obstetrician wanted Pingping to come that very afternoon for another checkup, but he told Nan that the accuracy rate of the ultrasound was more than ninety-nine percent. Nan called the Gold Wok and asked Niyan and Shubo to tend the restaurant for the rest of the day. In the afternoon he took his wife to see Dr. Walker. The result of the reexamination was the same. Now that it was beyond any doubt that the baby was lost, the dead fetus would have to be aborted soon, for which Nan agreed to take his wife to Northlake Hospital three days later, on Monday morning.

Although she sauteed the garlic stems with slivers of pork for Taotao, Pingping couldn’t help lashing out at the boy at dinner. She declared that only Nan had been good to the baby and that both Taotao and she herself had been heartless and selfish. She said to her son, “You never want baby sister. Now we lost her, you’re happy.” “Mom, I’m sad too,” Taotao wailed.

Nan intervened, “We shouldn’t blame each ahther. We have to live on, zat’s what our baby wants us to do.”

That evening Janet came. She had heard the bad news from Niyan. She embraced Pingping and wiped away tears from her own cheeks. “This is too cruel,” she said, shaking her roundish chin. Pingping took her friend into her bedroom and showed her the clothes she had made for the baby: a miniature jacket, two bibs, a pair of woolen socks, a silk quilt, and a cotton mattress that was yet unfinished. Janet stayed until ten o’clock.

Nan wanted to inter their child in their backyard; so did Pingping. He planned to lay her down beside the large Russian swan that had died two years ago in the lake, buried under the tallest sweet gum. He had marked the spot with a brown boulder. Now they must bring their baby home after the abortion. But how? They were unsure whether there was a coffin made for such a tiny body. It was already the weekend, and the funeral home on Lawrenceville Highway was closed. Nan went to the Korean supermarket again and bought a large jewelry box. He dismantled its tiny drawers and made it empty, like a casket. He planned to take their daughter home in it, and when the funeral home was open the next week, he’d go buy a real coffin for her, which should be large enough to contain this makeshift pall. Meantime, Pingping finished sewing the little cotton mattress. She made the bed for the baby inside the box with the clothing she had prepared. In a way, the interior of the container resembled a tiny, comfortable cradle.

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