Author: Richard Leise
A knock on the door. In the way of doctors, the door opens before Justin or Jenifer can answer. The wail of a woman moaning sweeps down the hallway and into their room. The sound swells to a scream, but her words are indistinguishable, each syllable crushed by a choking sob. The doctor smiles, unconcerned. A moment later, a nurse enters. She carries a manila folder clipped closed with a pen. She shuts the door behind her.
Instead of a woman, the screaming brings the doctor’s features into sharper focus. In some near or distant future, this man will be considered a hero or a villain, his actions, his participation in The Program, judged heinous or brilliant. History often enjoys the glory of perspective, a sort of ordering imposed upon chaos. Justin is too close to this particular point in history to predict which.
“Please,” the doctor says. He doesn’t take his eyes from Justin as the nurse sets the manila envelope upon the foot of the bed.
What does “Please” mean?
Smiling, the woman asks Jenifer how she’s doing. She doesn’t stop talking as she approaches Jenifer, and, speaking now to the child, lifts the boy. She leaves the room.
The woman down the hall is still screaming, but she has tired herself, considerably. She sounds more human. The nurse pulls the door closed. The suite is silent. Jenifer pushes herself backward until she is sitting. She smiles. Her eyes are fixed and bright.
The doctor steps to the foot of the bed. He retrieves the folder. He thumbs a corner of his mouth. Light flashes as the television pops to life. The doctor turns. The TV cuts off and into darkness. Shaking his head, he again faces Jenifer and reads through a sheet of paper. Nodding, he says, “What’s your name again?”
“And that’s with two ‘n’s’”?
The doctor nods. He taps a piece of paper, “And you were born Eight One?”
He shrugs. “Last four of your soc?”
“What’s going on,” Justin says. He steps towards the doctor.
The doctor holds the folder like a bible. His glasses rest upon the end of his nose. He traces his finger as if following a particular passage, and, satisfied, closes the folder and pockets the pen. He speaks as if into a microphone.
“It goes without saying that things happen.”
Justin makes to speak, but Jenifer raises a hand. “Make him say it. All of it. Whatever they have done? Whatever supposedly happened? We’ll get more if we’re silent.”
The doctor pushes his glasses atop the bridge of his nose and cocks his head. He looks at Justin. He shrugs. He turns his body and addresses Jenifer.
“Those involved apologize, Mrs. Dressler. I certainly can’t do anything more. He bites his bottom lip. “We’ll bring you your boy shortly.”
The doctor crosses the room and places a hand upon the door. He nods. “As promised, Mrs. Dressler, your child will be delivered shortly.”
He leaves. The woman is no longer screaming. They hear her crying before the door seals shut.
Justin. Jenifer. They know what happened. What’s impossible to construct? Meaning. Life—as in what it takes to live—has never been easier. Living—as in what it means to exist—has never been more complicated. Before, your mother could die, and you were given a ghost. Now, a woman has a child, and she is given what?
More than ever before language, just as it illuminates, exposes our weaknesses, and highlights our inability to grasp what might once have been considered intuitively.
What just happened? Or didn’t happen?