Chapter 36

Copyright© 2015 by Colin Barrett

Lee had our baby the easy way, sort of. Well, easy for her, I guess, though it played hell on my nerves.

The cervix at the internal mouth of the birth canal has to dilate a certain amount to let a woman give birth naturally, and Lee's wasn't cooperating. Her water broke early, before contractions had even started, and we rushed off to the hospital—only a few minutes away, fortunately—where she only spent about three uncomfortable hours of early-stage, and therefore comparatively mild, labor pains before her doctor decided that a dry birth was taking too long and she needed a Caesarean section.

So they anesthetized her and shooed me unceremoniously out to the waiting room, where I spent the next forty-five minutes in a real stew. Suddenly the baby was a very secondary consideration; I'd come in with a wife, and I damn well wanted to leave with one, baby notwithstanding. Serious surgery wasn't something I'd bargained for, and it scared me silly.

It turned out, when I checked days after the fact with Spook, that my worries had been needless. At one time in history, it seemed, C-sections had been almost invariably fatal to the mother, and the baby might not make it, either. These days, though, Spook said the literature showed they were no riskier than natural birth. Even the incision didn't incapacitate her any more than extended labor would have, maybe less, and the doctors promised her the scar would be small and unobtrusive.

When I finally got home that night after seeing my infant son I was still revved. We'd had birth announcements printed with only the time, date and weight left blank and I studiously filled them out and put them in the handwritten envelopes Lee had done (she'd felt printed would be tacky, and my own hand was a semi-legible scrawl). I set them to go out in the next morning's mail.

And now the world would know that John Wentworth Carstairs was among us, with an unlimited future before him.

Richard was one of those who'd get the announcement; I couldn't talk about little Johnnie to him over the phone—on the phone I was Jack Heyward, no relation to either Jackson or Lisa Carstairs—but I wanted him to know. To his I added a brief note: "Sorry, we thought better of all but the first letter of Jeremiah. JEC." He'd get a kick out of it.

I wondered idly if he'd try to match my handwriting with Jack Heyward's. If he did he was in for yet another disappointment; as Heyward I'd been a lefty, but I was always pretty ambidextrous and had taught myself to use my right hand now. After I did I wondered why I hadn't before, it was a lot easier than craning my wrist around what I wrote. My rebellious streak at work, even as a kid?

But I doubted he'd do the comparison anyway. The last couple of months had started me thinking of Richard as a true friend, not just a friendly enemy—"frenemies," the kids call them.

"The kids." I guessed I'd best get used to such thinking now that I had one myself. I was closing in on thirty in real years, never mind that my Carstairs birthday left me a couple of years short of the mark, and wasn't that the age above which the old Vietnam protesters had warned not to trust anybody?

Vietnam was on my mind because Richard, true to his word, had indeed called Spook back for more talk about patriotism, and that was one area on which he and Spook couldn't agree. Richard felt that any war sponsored by the government was one that "every red-blooded American" had to support. (I wondered idly what color was the blood of those who didn't. Green? Fuchsia? One of those other colors for which only women seem to have names?) He even defended the Germans' support of Hitler's Nazis in World War II on the same basis, albeit stopping well short of their domestic policies such as the attempted extermination of Jews.

Spook, talking to me privately, questioned this and hauled out a host of historical comparisons, most of which I knew too little about to comment, in support. I pretty much took Spook's position; I certainly had no desire to place my personal ass on the line for a misguided war in which I didn't believe. But I told Spook I had to respect Richard's view, and he incorporated that as, I guess, a footnote to his growing understanding of human motivations.

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