Tuesday, January 23, 2018


A real event with fictional details.


The man sat next to me in the maternity ward, looking like he’d rather be anywhere else in the world. He was burly, with calloused hands, oil-stained jeans, flannel shirt and a Patriots cap, and I pegged him for an auto mechanic interrupted in the middle of an oil change. After a while, he hailed a passing nurse.

He asked, “Why is my wife taking so long? She’s done this six times already.”

“The baby will be born when it’s ready, Mister Stanley. Please have a seat. We’ll let you know as soon as there’s news.”

“It’s gotta be a boy this time, right? I’m goddamn sick of her having girls.”

“Sir, please sit down and relax. She won’t be much longer.” The nurse walked away, and he returned to his chair.

I was nervous too. Yesterday I’d held my wife’s hand as she lay on a gurney and screamed bloody murder. She had been in labor for over 24 hours, going on forever.

“It’s our first,” I told the man. “We’ve waited eight years.”

“Our seventh,” he said. “Six girls! She goddamn well better give me a boy this time.”

“It’s the father who – ” I stopped myself.

He let out an exasperated sigh. “I’m surrounded by them at home! Everything’s dolls and pink ribbons. There’s nobody for me to play ball with, nobody to teach about being a man. God, I want a son. Don’t you want a son?”

“I just want a healthy baby.” I yawned and looked at my watch. “And for this to be over with.”

“I’ll name him Arthur Stanley, Junior.”

Time stretched out like taffy. An eon later, someone paged me on the loudspeaker. I hurried down the hallway, where a doctor handed me a clipboard and said something like “your wife can’t give a vaginal birth and she and the baby will die if she doesn’t have an immediate Caesarean section and it requires your approval and you have no choice so sign here NOW.”

So I did. And my exhausted brain fought my fears to make room for – for a family.

A nurse approached Arthur Stanley. “Your wife had a beautiful, healthy girl,” she said. Stanley flung his hat against the wall and stomped away.

A few minutes later, she beckoned me. “Your wife is resting and your son is beautiful,” she said. “Want to see him?”

I did.