WHAT’S IN A NAME?

“Hope is the perfect name for our baby” declared my very pregnant and utterly adorable wife Whitney as she waddled from the kitchen into the den.  In one hand she held a salami, cream cheese and anchovy sandwich and in the other a glass of grape soda. Her cravings had been rather weird and my stomach churned a few times at her creative culinary concoctions. I jumped up from the sofa taking Whitney’s snacks and placed them on the side table as she gingerly eased herself into the recliner. 

Hope” I said thoughtfully, swirling the name around in my brain as one would a sip of fine wine. Whitney happily chomped on her sandwich watching me as I sat silently thinking. Pausing in mid chomp she pursed her lips and furrowed her brow saying “What’s wrong, Andrew? Don’t you like the name?” 

“Oh no! I think it’s a lovely name” I replied quickly. “It just might be – now don’t get upset – somewhat cutesy considering our twins are named Faith and Charity.” 

Dismissing my observation, Whitney asked me to hand her the book of baby names from the coffee table. Listen to this: ‘’Hope signifies the Christian expectation of salvation and eternal life. The three theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity are the strongholds among Christians” she quoted. “Still think it’s cutesy?”

“0k, poor choice of words” I admitted “but let’s not be hasty. I’ve always liked the name Anastasia.” 

Whitney stared at me over the rim of her glass. “Ah, a name that defines royalty. Wasn’t she and the entire Romanov family slaughtered by the Bolsheviks?” 

“I see your point”  I acquiesced. “Well, you’re not the only one who’s been researching baby names. How about Ash, Ewan or Linden?”  Whitney bristled at the idea of using a masculine-sounding tree name. “Hold on, Andrew. I know we agreed not to find out the sex of the baby but this pregnancy is exactly like my first one with the girls so no boy names!”  

Suddenly Whitney let out a loud groan of pain followed by another even louder. She doubled over, strewing her sandwich and soda everywhere. When she stood up her water broke immediately. The twins woke up crying and came running into the den sobbing  “Mommy! What’s wrong?” Complete mayhem and disorder had broken out in our apartment. Breathlessly Whitney said “I’ll put the girls back to bed and get my hospital bag. You arrange for a ride and ask my mother to come over. And page the doctor!” 

I called for an Uber and texted Whitney’s mom to stay with the girls. Then I paged our obstetrician giving him an update on Whitney’s condition. Within twenty minutes we were on our way to the hospital. Labor was coming on fast and the Uber driver had the pedal to the metal. With every contraction Whitney groaned louder and the driver’s eyes grew wider. 

The doctor arrived at the hospital minutes after we did and a quick examination was all it took for him to know we had no time to waste. “Whitney”, the doctor said calmly, “your baby’s head is crowning. Just a few good pushes is all we need. Ok, push now.” 

I held Whitney’s hand tightly as the doctor encouraged her to push. “Now with the next contraction give it all you got.” The next sound we heard was our baby’s cries followed by gasps from the nurses. 

“What’s wrong?” we asked anxiously. 

Nothing’s wrong” chuckled the doctor. “But maybe you’ll want to rethink the name ‘Hope’ when you see the Johnson on this kid!” 

NAR © 2020

THE LONG WAIT

Mike, the cabbie, was relieved. He just dropped off his last passenger and was going to pick up his wife, then head home. And not a moment too soon, he thought to himself as a nor’easter was headed their way. 

Suddenly the wind whipped Mike’s cap off his head and he chased it down the steps. Turning back to go to his cab, he spotted a figure huddled in the corner. Another drunk, no doubt, but then he heard crying. He inched closer and the streetlight revealed an old woman wrapped in a shawl. 

“Oh, shit! I swear I got the worst luck in the world!” Mike muttered under his breath. Knowing his wife Laura would kill him if he didn’t help the old lady, Mike called out over the wind – “Excuse me. Are you ok?” 

A weak voice replied “I’m lost and scared and forlorn. Please help me!” 

“I can take you to the police station” suggested Mike. “They can help you.” 

No! I need to see my son. Please take me to my son.” 

“Look, lady, I wanna help you, I really do, but my wife’s waiting for me and the weather’s bad.”

The old woman started sobbing and it was too much for Mike. “Okay, I got an idea. What’s your son’s address. If it ain’t too far, I’ll take you – otherwise, it’s the police station.” 

Immediately the lady responded. “Renwick’s. That’s where my son is.” 

“Your son’s at Renwick’s!? Laura works there! C’mon … we don’t want to be late!” 

“Jack is very patient. He knows I’ll be there” replied the old lady. 

“Well”, said Mike, “my wife ain’t so let’s skedaddle.” 

The woman had a little box which she placed on the back seat next to her. The rain and wind were terrible as Mike made his way to Renwick’s. He called Laura to let her know he was coming and filled her in on what was going on.  The old woman hummed softly in the back seat, as in a trance. It sounded like a haunting lullaby, tender and sweet yet mournful and lonely. 

Finally they arrived at Renwick’s. Laura was waiting under the awning but she was alone and the store was dark. Mike flashed the lights and Laura made a mad dash for the cab. Laura turned around to greet the mysterious little old lady but the back seat was empty. 

“Well, where is she?” asked a surprised Laura. 

“Where’d she go?” stammered Mike. “I was here the whole time. No one left this cab!” 

Laura reached for the box. On the outside was scrawled Jack McGuire, Pediatric Unit, Bed #27 and the note inside read – “For my precious baby boy, Jack. Sorry I made you wait so long. My work is done. Mommy’s finally coming.” Inside was a tiny gold lantern with glass panels etched with cherubs.

“OMG! You’re not gonna believe this, Mike. This was once the site of the Renwick Smallpox Hospital. A lot of people died from smallpox, especially babies. So many helpless babies – God bless them. This is a sign, Mike. I believe you were touched by an angel.” 

NAR © 2019

BLINDSIDED

Hard to imagine life without her. When the hell did everything start to unravel?

Now he sat alone in the shell of their apartment, baseball game on the tv playing for no one, nursing his second Dewars. Once upon a time this place was alive with people enjoying one of their famous dinner parties. When he closed his eyes he could hear their friends discussing politics, movies, the crazy tenants on the 2nd  floor … and the sound of her spirited laugh when someone told a dirty joke. 

They were the perfect couple, the envy of all their friends. Theirs was an easy, comfortable marriage – viewing a gallery in SoHo, cycling through Central Park, steamy showers after Saturday morning love-making. They were in sync in their choices of restaurants, paint colors and the biggest decision of all … neither one wanted kids. 

He sat there, head in hands while a thousand thoughts went through his mind. When did he begin having second thoughts? Was it the weekend in Maine spent visiting his sister after the birth of her first baby? Was it watching the kids in the playground across the street? All he could remember was the night he whispered in her ear that he wanted to have a baby. 

She was blindsided. What? No! He was just named partner at Goldman Sachs. She was food editor for Connoisseur magazine. Life is perfect. They had an agreement, dammit! Would she just consider thinking about it? No! How could he spring this on her now? 

Weeks, months went by. She remained adamant, distant. Then one day he came home after work and she was gone. 

Here he sat, alone with his Dewars, ballgame long over, fingering his wedding band, staring at divorce papers. 

It couldn’t have happened to a more perfect couple.

NAR © 2017