Thirteen Minutes


I guess I should have realized what she was doing earlier. Silly superstitions fluctuate between amusing and annoying for me, but I don’t have a problem with little games. That she kept her half of the wishbone in a plastic baggie was the tip-off I should have received, but it wasn’t until just this moment that the light bulb had sputtered on.

As an aside, I can’t figure out the phrasing “The light bulb went off” as a metaphor for sudden realization. Given cartoon parlance, the idea always illuminates the bulb, which means if the bulb “went off,” the idea would be extinguished. An odd turn of the language, that.

Anyhow, here I am with a mouthful of kettle chips, staring idly into space while the open refrigerator cools my jeans because I’m functionally a very thin-haired teenager, waiting to sip Diet Coke directly from the two-liter once I’ve had a chance to swallow and I’m staring at this bit of chicken carcass magnetized to the fridge door and I get it. She wished that she was pregnant.

And it worked.

Or, at least, it proved to be a timely guess. Or an accurate hope. Or… something. For a few seconds I marvel that most of the truth or effectiveness of hope and wish and prayer and astrology and superstition and faith and optimism is basically attribution: If you think of it as coming from fate or God or cosmic forces or planetary alignment or positive thinking or the power of the human spirit it works either way. Did a wish on a chicken bone give my wife what she’s always wanted? Did God answer her prayers? Did nothing more magical than raw biology occur? It just depends on how you look at it. Maybe, technically, the answer is just “yes.” Maybe God granted the chicken bone the power to grant the wish that provided the sperm with the strength to push that last tiny bit.

Maybe it’s just easier to say she got her wish.


The fleshy woman had a security camera poised above and just to the right rear of her desk, overlooking both the semi-awkward chairs that served to provide customers with a modicum (a very small modicum) of comfort and, my paranoid mind assumed, to evaluate her level of worktime dedication. Pre-registering for admission to the hospital is kind of surreal when you think about it. Delivering a baby is one of the very few times you plan on visiting the hospital. I guess that’s why most people hate hospitals: They always interrupt your life.

Really, we love hospitals. They give us a place to go when these mysterious bodies of ours malfunction. I tried to imagine living in a place where hospitals weren’t standard issue in every township and populated region. It looked a lot like the scary places on Earth that I’m hesitant to visit. Maybe because they lack hospitals.

Jowls swinging, the woman “hoom”ed over our paperwork, flitting thickly back and forth between the forms (which weren’t that detailed) and her computer screen, which was turned opposite us so the security camera could stare watchfully at it but we could not. We listened to the clack of her fingernails on the keyboard for what felt like too many seconds while she let the semi-silence drag on. Finally she looked up, “Can I have a copy of your driver’s license, please?” Nik complied readily. “Did they take a copy when you were in here before?”

Nik looked puzzled but replied, “Yes.”

Heaving her bulk out of the chair (an unnecessary motion, I presumed, the office was scarcely big enough for her full frame, much less the three of us; I couldn’t imagine what she would need to do that one of us couldn’t handle by lifting an arm six inches to any side) she slapped the ID cards into the copier tray. “Well, no harm in copying them again, I suppose.”

I almost spoke up, suggesting that having unaccounted for copies of her driver’s license and insurance card lying around was indeed capable of causing harm, but I decided to stow it. Instead I marveled at the unfunny cartoon magnet on her overhead cupboard and the gigantic teacup-and-saucer shaped pots that crowded the room with poorly maintained plants.

The copier whirred and she lifted the lid too soon, half-blinding herself with the scanning light. I suppressed a laugh, mostly for Nik’s benefit, and watched as she handed the cards back to my wife, beaming with her un-self-conscious radiance in the stiff chair next to me. Before the woman flopped herself back into the chair I already knew that she was going to tell us we were all set to enter the hospital in less than 100 days for the first steps in the journey that would alter everything forever. I wished the confirmation was being delivered by someone with less Mary Kay brand lipstick on her teeth.


It had been a pretty tough morning. My first-shift partner had taken a personal day and things were breaking all over the place, causing me to get overwhelmed and stressed out. I griped over IM to Nik and she almost immediately asked if I wanted her to come out and have lunch. It was well past my lunchtime but having no relief/backup that day, I hadn’t actually taken a break. I didn’t really want her to go out of her way, but I did want to see a friendly face so I said if she wanted to come out, I would like to see her.

After the break she had decided to just stay and hang out until my shift was over. Fortunately the rest of the day had been much smoother than the first half and now we were discussing dinner options while I tried to pack up my equipment and hit the road. When Nik and I talk about what to eat for dinner the conversation often goes something like this:

Me: “What do you want for dinner?”

Nik: “I dunno, what sounds good to you?”

Me: “Meh, I could go for pretty much anything. Did you have any preferences?”

Nik: “Well, I’m starving but nothing sounds good.”

Me: “How about something we don’t get very often?”

Nik: “No.”

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