I’m slathering butter on my ninth cob. Why aren’t I full yet?
I have corn stuck in my teeth. Feathering out, and about, it swishes in when I slurp, and goes out when I blow. I should floss, but I like it, and I am not done eating anyway. Having corn stuck in my teeth makes me feel like a whale, because certain kinds of whales, the biggest kinds, don’t even have teeth.
They have baleen. Baleen. It is a pretty word, isn’t it? I’m going to name my first daughter Baleen. She will be like the false teeth of those huge beasts. Baleen is long, and thin, and made out of the same tough material that our bones, hair and nails are made of, yet it is so much more.
Whales suck in gallons of water and krill and everything else into their mouths, and press out the excess water by straining it through baleen. Baleen lets them filter that water out, like some giant colander, they press their tongues – bigger then men – against the roof of their mouths, and WOOSH, all the water blows out again, but the krill remain.
My daughter will be like that; she will be able to filter out the bad – the useless, the excess water, and keep in the good – the nutrients, the krill, of life. She won’t do anything in excess, like I have, and do, she will be able to filter herself clean of all vices. She will be better than me. More useful.
Baleen has been used by man, and in many ways, before plastic and fiberglass replaced it. It has been used by indigenous peoples to make indigenous items, and it was also used by the civilized man to make civilized items, like whips, and umbrellas, and corsets. I hope, by naming my daughter after a material that is used to make corsets, I hope it blesses her with the need never to use a corset herself – to never try to be skinny, but to just be skinny.
By naming her after a small part, of one of the largest animals to ever live, the blue whale, I hope that she will be a part of me – but only a tiny part.
And I don’t want her to be a whale; I want her to be Baleen. Because though whales are beautiful, and majestic, they are also difficult to take care of, and largely ignored. There will never be a blue whale in a zoo. They are too big, and not cute, not like pandas are. No one’s favorite animal is a whale. Dolphins yes, but not those too-big-to-be-contained goliaths.
I am not a whale, but I have been called one, and though I do love whales, being called one has made me cry. I admit it, I am fat, and I hope if I can ever have Baleen, she will fill the pit inside me that food just can’t seem to.
Gabrielle Knock is an English major at Sonoma State University. She has been an intern for VOLT, and has been published in ZAUM Literary Magazine.