Harriet’s Last Chance
                        Fiction by Eva Eliav

      Harriet wasn’t pretty at all.  In fact, she looked odd.  Her large, pale eyes
bulged like lichees.  As if that wasn’t enough, the eyeballs sometimes drifted
lazily apart.
      “She’s such a good woman,” I told Michael.  

      Harriet took care of an invalid downstairs, just a heap of skin and bones in
a wheelchair.  I sometimes feared this would be Harriet’s fate: caring for one
withered pile after another until she withered herself.

      One day, Harriet asked if she could speak to me in private after work.  I
laid on tea and cookies and waited, wondering.

      She got right to it.
      “I’m pregnant,” she said, taking a bite of cookie, a sip of tea.
      “Pregnant?”  I gulped.  I’d assumed . . . well . . . I’d imagined that Harriet
led a different life.  I smiled gently.
      “May I ask who?” I said.
      She shrugged.  “Just a guy from work, from the clinic.”

      Then Tom barreled in, wide-eyed, sparking with interest.  Kids are like
cats: they have that knack of arriving precisely where and when they’re most
unwanted, quickly settling, charming us into submission.  
      “Darling,” I said, “isn’t that program you love starting right now?”
      “It just finished,” said Tom.  “Hi, Harriet.”
      He sidled up to her.  Harriet was a favourite with Tom.  He found her
eyes endlessly intriguing.
      “Hi, bubblegumhead,” said Harriet, and Tom giggled.

      Desperate measures.  I jumped up and fished my purse from the
      “We’re out of ice cream.  Who wants to go to the store?”
      Tom thrust out his hand for money and exited.
      “He’s a sweet little guy,” said Harriet wistfully.
      “Yes, he’s a doll,” I said, “when he’s sleeping.  Now, what about you?  
Does your friend. . . .?”  Tactfully, I paused.  “Are you planning. . . .?”
      She sighed.  “He doesn’t know.  I never thought I could get pregnant.  
Female troubles. . . .”  She bit her lip.  “And, the thing is, I might never get
pregnant again.”

      I hadn’t had a talk like this in ages.  Mostly it was kids and recipes and
listening to Michael’s rants about politics and money.  Few people thought of
me as someone wise, someone to be consulted.  I felt a little dizzy with the
weight of it.  I leaned closer.
      “Do you love him?” I asked.
      Harriet looked past me out the window.  One eye floated away.
      “No,” she said.  “But I’d love to have a child.”
      I cleared my throat.
      “Let’s look at the pros and cons.  The pros are you want a child . . .
and this, well, this could be your last chance.”
      Harriet nodded.
      “And the cons,” I went on, “what are the cons?”
      “Money,” said Harriet.  “I don’t have enough to raise a child alone.”
      “That’s a big con,” I agreed.
      “But I’m forty,” Harriet said, and began to cry.
      I reached up and squeezed her shoulder.  I’d given birth late myself,
knew how anguished you could feel at three in the morning, everything
going downhill, flesh and spirit.

      “Have it,” I suddenly blurted, “just have it.  Let the future take care of
      I went on passionately in this vein for a while, then stopped abruptly,
sensing my fervor had pushed her in the opposite direction.  Harriet smiled
      “Thank you, Fran,” she said.  “Thank you, thank you.”
      “On the other hand,” I backtracked desperately, “let’s think again.  
Money’s a real problem.”

      It was too late.  Helplessly, I trailed her to the door.  We hugged and
exchanged wordless reassurance.  
I can talk to her again, I consoled
tomorrow, next week.

      But next week, she’d flown back to America.  A lovely girl from the
Philippines replaced her.  I tormented myself from time to time that, drunk
with being valued, with being heard, I’d blabbed away Harriet’s chance of
being a mother.

      It was three years later that I got a call from Harriet.  She was in Tel
Aviv revisiting old haunts.
      “Come over,” I said.

      An hour later, I opened the door and there she was, looking the same as
ever, her arms full of baby.
      “You had it,” I rejoiced.
      “No, no,” she said, laughing, “I had an abortion.”
      “But. . . .”
      “Thank God for science,” said Harriet, cuddling her child.  
      The girl was a beauty.  I patted her fat blond curls.
      “Thank God,” I said.


Eva Eliav grew up in Toronto, Canada and received a degree in English
Language and Literature from the University of Toronto.  Since 1970, she
has been living in Israel.  Her work has been published in a number of small
magazines both in Israel and abroad, including
Room of One’s Own,
Parchment, Voices Poetry Anthology, ARC (Israel), and Natural Bridge.  
Her short fiction appears in the Winter 2007 issue of
Quality Women’s
.  She is presently working on new collections of poetry and prose.  
Eliav is married and has a daughter.  

On “Harriet’s Last Chance”:
“Harriet’s Last Chance” is from a collection in progress I call
“Connections.”  Like wildflowers, these pieces seem to spring up as
they please.  Many of them are begun, and even completed, during
walks.  Perhaps the rhythm of walking shakes loose images and bits
of memory that begin to form themselves into a story.  Coming from
poetry, I feel comfortable with very short pieces, what Carl Sandburg
calls “the opening and closing of a door.”  This particular story
pleases me because it’s upbeat and sweetly ironic.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 2, Number 1
(Spring 2007)

Copyright © 2007
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.