It fits in the palm of her hand. A perfect impression, the plaster only crumbling along one edge. How could feet that small belong to a person? The tiny lines and creases preserved. The plaster is grey, but the memory is pink feet. Tiny human pink feet already scarred with needle holes. Pink feet against a background of florescent lights, machines beeping, digital numbers rising and falling on monitors. the footprints sit in plaster, in a box, in tissue paper.
Wrapped in pink tissue paper in a closet on a shelf in a crate in another box, in another box. “It must be in here.” Something so important must be here where it should be. She digs past the vacuum cleaner with the canister that crashes off, past the wrapping paper, past the weights. It’s not in the torn cardboard box, not in the shopping bag, but in the orange crate. She digs, unpacks, and lifts. Uncovered. A tiny plaster cast of two feet. Perfect feet with lines and creases. Like human feet, in tissue, in a box, in a box, in plaster
The footprints fit in her hand. Gray plaster in the shape of a scallop shell, the impression of the feet creased and veined. She imagines what she did not see. The nurse, name forgotten, releases the side panel on the isolette. She strokes the baby's head and moves the wires to the side. Her gloved hands lift the baby's feet. Deftly into the plaster and back out. Did the nurse sing or coo? Did she rock a startled baby? The footprints don’t remember.
Tiny footprints preserved in plaster—gray toes and lines and creases like real feet. The real feet attached to the baby were pink and in motion, scarred by needles, taped down, glowing with a pulse ox, kicking and pushing. The plaster feet stay still and silent.
Footprints in a scallop shell. Tiny feet preserved in gray, toes and lines and creases, perfect and silent. “Mama, mama, mama” four years later she doesn’t sleep at bedtime. Dirty feet in purple butterfly flipflops as the leaves fall. Chipped nail polish feet in motion kicking and crunching leaves. Dirty feet thump and run overhead long past bedtime. Plaster feet stay wrapped in tissue paper in a box in a box in a closet.