A free fiction short story about a young dad and his experience with the birth of his baby daughter. I wrote this a while ago as a writing exercise, just for the practice. Here are my self-imposed rules: 1) I cannot mention any emotions at all; 2) I cannot give specific descriptors, like ages and such. That is why I don’t come out and just tell you things in the story. I hope you enjoy. Let me know what you think!
by J. R. Lambert
It was hard sometimes to control his grin. He once more picked at one of the holes torn in the couches. There were nine of them in this couch alone. There were seventeen of them between all three of the couches. He didn’t know what the material covering the couches was called, but it was slick and plastic-like at first, but he could stick to it once he sat there for a while. The material somehow made a fart noise when he scooted across it, which made him laugh out loud each time he tried it. In addition to the couches, the waiting room contained a vending machine full of difficult choices, a soda machine, and a few dusty, plastic plants.
With his butt numb and his back stiff from sitting, he decided to get up and walk around the room. The chink of the change falling down the soda machine seemed loud when all it was competing with was the buzz from the fluorescent bulbs in order to be heard. He slammed the side of his fist against the large red Coke button. His second Coke since arriving. The can made a satisfying spitting noise as he opened it. The fizz tickling his throat, with the Coke quenching the dryness left in his mouth after consuming two bags of salty potato chips.
He unthinkingly ran his fingers across one of the waiting room’s nearby plastic plants once again. Using his shirt sleeve, he removed a last bit of dust he had missed from the plant leaves before.
He paced the room, walking heel-to-toe. He’d once heard that feet were about a foot long, and a quick way to estimate the size of a room was to walk across it in this way. Still seventeen paces. A little bigger than his bedroom, but not by much.
A careful count of his remaining coins revealed that he had just enough left to buy another bag of chips, with a nickel left to spare. Since he didn’t need it, he decided to try rolling the nickel across the coffee table, from one end to the other. He cleared off the table top, throwing the old parenting magazines with the recipes torn out on the floor. After a second thought, he gathered the magazines and stacked them neatly beside one of the couches. The first two rolls, the nickel veered off to the side of the table, but by the third attempt, he was able make it all the way across. It was after about twenty rolls that the nickel rolled off the table and slid under one of the couches. They were bolted down, low to the floor and he soon gave up the search-and-rescue mission to recover it.
He was having second thoughts. He shouldn’t leave the magazines on the floor, someone might complain. He figured that he probably should have put them on one of the couches instead. He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t thought of it before. He decided to stack them in order of their publication date. The most recent was a Today’s Parents magazine from a year-and-a-half ago. The oldest dating back three years.
He felt silly then. He didn’t really need the table any longer, so there was no point in leaving the magazines on the couch. He arranged them in a fan shape on the table, and let out a long sigh as he sat back on the couch to admire the display, ignoring his numb butt and stiff back.
He nearly jumped when his cell phone chirped, pulling him out of his magazine trance. “dude, WTF is taking so long?” He read on his small cell phone screen.
“i don’t know man, this is some crazy shit.” He texted back.
“u ready for this man?”
“o yeah man. this is gonna b so awesome.” He felt himself grinning again.
“is michael there 2?”
“yeah, he is in there with amy. she didn’t want me in there.” His grin faded.
“that sucks man, i’m sorry. but u know what dude, you are gonna b a great dad.”
“i know, this is going to be great.”
“good luck man! my mom wants u 2 tell us the weight.”
He tucked away his cell phone, and vaulted himself over the couch to the vending machine. His third bag of chips, but heck, when wasn’t he hungry? He plunked in the last of his money and was halfway through the bag when Michael trudged in. He stared intently into the chip bag, as though it held some solution to an awkward situation.
“Hey man, I just thought you should know that she is doing okay. It has been slow, you know,” Michael offered.
“Who is okay, Amy, or my daughter?” Danny said with more acid than he had intended.
“Look man, this is weird for me too. I mean, my girlfriend is in there giving birth to your baby. I mean, you were only with her for two weeks. I have been with her for eight months now. I mean it’s all pretty weird. For all of us.” Michael declared, with exaggerated control of his voice.
“I know dude. I’m sorry,” Danny allowed hesitantly.
“Amy, what?” Danny asked.
“Amy is doing fine. Your daughter is not here yet, but the doctor says Amy is almost fully dialed, whatever that means. I think it means she’s almost ready.”
Danny tried unsuccessfully to hide his grin from Michael.
“Anyway.” Michael turned and left the waiting room.
The longer he waited, the more slowly time seemed to go. He returned to his basketball game, using the trashcan with the lid removed, and a piece of his geometry homework crumpled into a ball. He had become bored with it forever ago, but couldn’t think of anything else to do that he hadn’t already done at least twice before. He started counting how many in a row he could make again. One, two, three…
He was at forty-three when the nurse came in. She had a stiff demeanor, and her uniform was crisp and faultless. He involuntarily looked down at his own cargo shorts, stained t-shirt, and tattered Vans.
“Time to meet your baby,” she managed to say with an almost perfect absence of enthusiasm.
As she followed the nurse out of the waiting room, and down the hall to the baby observation room, he saw Michael down the hall, crying. Sobbing like he was the baby, in fact. I hope Amy broke up with that bastard. About time, we should be together as a family now that we have a baby.
The nurse gestured toward one of the babies contained behind the glass. His grin broke out and split his face.
“Isn’t she the most beautiful thing you ever saw?” He gushed. He felt his whole body flush with some type energy, like that time when he was in third grade and drank all those Red Bulls and stayed up until 4am. The nurse had an unreadable blank stare and stood there stiffly.
“I hope she broke up with Michael, but you know, even if she didn’t.” His voice trailed off momentarily. “Well, you know, she is such a beautiful baby, we will make it work out somehow. One time my dad was here, and I was in there. Well, not here exactly, but you know, like this. I wonder if he felt like this. I just know she is such a great baby. I don’t know why, but I know.”
The nurse rattled off some statistics about the birth he knew he should probably be listening to, but he was so captivated with this little person he saw in the window. He put his hand up to the glass, as though he could somehow touch her through it.
“Danny.” The nurse said sharply, which caught his attention. He realized that the nurse had been standing there in silence for some time while he had stared at his new daughter.
“She didn’t’ make it,” she said after he looked up at her. “You know, sometimes these things happen.” She added, with a practiced cadence.
He turned his head back to his precious daughter at the same time that his mind searched for the meaning behind the words he had heard, but could not quite made sense of. She didn’t make it. Who? She didn’t make it where? Amy didn’t make it where?
The color drained from his face and he snapped his head back to the side and stared at the nurse. He felt his stomach knot up, as if someone was twisting it with a pair of pliers. The Cokes suddenly felt like acid in his stomach. He was unsure of what to do, what to say. He didn’t know if he should laugh or cry, or…what?
Amy didn’t make it? She’s gone? Just like that, he was a single parent.