by james hörner

submission info

approaching the birth of the baby, mother sedated yet anxious, father waiting outside for fear of blood.

that is all i am in this equation, the father waiting, nervously pacing.

all this really comes back to me though, doesn't it? after all, it's my genes, not hers, that are prone to addiction. problem is, we can't afford the therapy to get them smoothed out, and without that they weren't willing to certify us for parenthood.

it's gotten to be a real pain to even have a baby these days! that should be one of the most natural, free things a couple can do. after all, how did they expect us to continue as a species if we didn't reproduce? they didn't, and that's the problem. the low-lifers like us, the plant workers, obviously didn't deserve to have children. instead of adding more chlorine to keep the pool clean, they simply yanked out certain swimmers. the ones they thought were pissing in the pool.

kicked out of the pool and pushed to the market. that's how it always works, others at the plant liked to comment. the plant was a noisy lot of opinionated people so you can probably imagine how nervous i was to actually speak up in the lunch room and mention our problem.

when i spoke out everyone looked around, trying to figure out "that voice" none of them had really heard before. slowly all eyes fell on me as i explained my problem. immediately several people coaxed me to slow down, calm down, and most of all be a little more quiet. i was a little confused about this, but soon realized why. the market.

one worker i hadn't known before handed me a card when i was done telling our story. brown, wrinkled card from being in a wallet too long, and all it had was a street address.

"go to the market. they'll fix you up with your parenting certs. a lot of us come from bad genes too- how'd you think we had kids to talk about all the time, eh?"

everyone laughed, the mood relaxed, and lunch resumed with it's usual bout of joke telling and bragging.

* * *

on the walk home from the transit station i kept feeling the card in my pocket, running my fingers around its well worn edges. how would i tell my wife that we could finally fulfill our dreams?

she was busy getting ready for work since she worked the late shift. it was a real strain with us not getting much time together, but it seemed our mutual dream of having a child kept us together.

why don't you find a guy with good genes, i'd ask her. she would just smile and tell me that everyone had screwed up genes, that i wasn't any different from the other guys at the plant.

i held up the card, baring only an address- with an undoubtedly discreet entranceway. isn't that the way these things always worked on television? i would knock at the door and hand them my card, and some muscular megaroid would let me in with an icy cold glare...

well, it sort of did work like that when we actually got a chance to scrape together enough cash to get the documents i needed. after that was out of the way we began our government sponsored parenting program.

* * *

babies crying, doctors jabbering away in their techno talk, the sweet smell of disinfectant. squeaky hospital floors, lumpy chairs, and seven year old magazines to keep you company.

"it's a boy," the doctor tells me with a look of disappointment. he pauses before continuing, "there were complications."

my boy! i think. i slump back down in my chair, disappointed yet resolving to move on, try again.

"your wife hemorrhaged heavily. i'm sorry. there were complications. we did everything we could."

with that he leaves, handing me a pamphlet about the hospital's free counseling programs.

this is where i still sit, the crying subsided, sadness still coursing around and around my body, waves of loss striking my chest.

a nurse walks into the lobby, "sir, you can come and see your son now."

james hörner is the editor of canadian content