The first chapter of a new book I've started to write, Woodsocket ’79.
Gerald and Izzy
Her contractions were coming every two minutes. He knew this because, despite the broken reading on the car’s dashboard, the distance between her last moan and the current one could be measured been between Dairy Sue’s on the south side of town and the First National Bank of Woodsocket over on the north, just a few blocks before county road 115. That’s where Woodsocket ended, and the rest of the world for all anyone cared.
As soon as he passed the bank another moan started, long and low. He’d never heard her moan like that, not even while having sex. Making a sharp right, he secretly became jealous of life and infancy and all of creation for making such intimate responses in her, in ways he never could.
“I’m driving as fast as I can, honey. Please try to stay calm.” He was hot. The air-conditioner had stopped working as well. In fact, just about the only thing that worked in his damn volvo was the engine, and even that was on the fritz. But he didn’t know how to fix such things, and he didn’t have the money to take it in. Not with a baby coming.
There was pink wall paper, pink bedding, pink carpet, and pink curtains. It was like one big strawberry milkshake explosion and it gave him a huge headache. She shopped at the local Gibson’s, and had darn near almost cleaned out their entire baby section.
“I gotta push!”
“No. Don’t push. Don’t you dare push!”
“But I gotta. I can feel the head coming out.”
Oh God. It was all too soon. Nine months just wasn’t enough time for a man to accept the arrival of another man’s child.
Hitting the gas, he sped through another intersection and turned onto the small business road that he knew would lead them to the hospital parking lot. A white van was parked just so it neither aligned with its intended spot by the front entrance, nor allowed anyone else through the narrow lane with arrows indicating a one-way passage.
“For Chrissake! Move your Goddamned car you stupid son of a—”
“Gerald, don’t cuss.”
Of all things she could be worried about, she was going to point out his speech. He rolled his head against the seatback in agitation.
“Yes, when the baby gets here, I want none of your vulgar language, no beer bottles on the table, no sports on the television and no men coming over with their cards and stories. Ooooooooh.”
That just about covered everything in his life that brought him any real joy. Or made him a man. He’d long ago suspected that she hated men, but couldn't figure out why she slept with so many all the time. It didn’t make sense, but then, none of the other husbands around him seemed to have wives that made sense either, so he figured it was useless to complain.
The white van finally moved forward and he curved around its fender to get a spot in the emergency lane. With a jerk, the car was in its place, and he was hopping out and rushing around to the back passenger side door.
“I can get out just fine,” she complained, pushing away his hands when he reached in. But he persisted. Dammit, this was what men did in the movies, they grabbed their laboring wives and carried them into the lobby and announced for all to hear, “Hark, my beloved is in labor. Lead the way.”
Oh, but she was heavy.
Someone opened the front door for him and stepped aside. He made it through the door, he made it into the lobby, and he was just about to announce their arrival when he felt something strange happen. She went limp and warm liquid began to spill out of her body.
It ran down his arms and seeped all through his pants and dripped down onto the clean laminate floor. Red, and sticky.
“Izzy? Izzy!” he yelled, shaking her just a bit. Then he looked up at the nurses who sat at the front station. His eyes were wide and scared.
One nurse shot a look at the other sitting next to her and yelled, “Call Doctor Kent! Now!” then jumped out of her seat and came around the desk to stand next to them.
“How long has she been out?”
“It just happened.”
“How long has she been bleeding?”
“I . . . I don’t know. She’s in labour, the baby is coming. We called first . . .”
A stretcher was wheeled in and they took her out of his arms. Dr. Kent came in the room just in time to see them disappear into the hall, protected by the swinging doors. But he didn’t follow. Not for a minute. Not the way Gerald would have expected him to.
He just stood there for a while and looked at the bloody man. Then, holding the clipboard closer to his chest, he walked through the swinging doors and left Gerald alone.
It was late evening when they told him she was dead. That they were dead. He signed the papers, and viewed the delicate little human laid out on a soft pink blanket, and his wife, gray and covered with a long sheet, and he went home.