They came to me when the first one didn’t work out. Ignoring procedure, they placed the baby on the baby scale themselves: cheeks like plums and blowing spit bubbles. A boy, I guessed, from all the blue.

—That’s the first thing.
—That he’s a boy?
—He wasn’t supposed to be.
—The odds are fifty-fifty, roughly.
—Not any more, they’re not.

Dad stood by with the empty baby carrier, looking a little sick to his stomach. I checked the scales and consulted my chart.

—He’s not overweight. Not quite underweight.
—Not quite. But just about.
—He seems placid, alert, responsive.
—You’re not with him all day.

I don’t know why it sounded like a threat. With her eyes on me, she pointed to the floor. Dad put down the carrier.

—I can keep him overnight, if you like.
—What good will that do?
—Try to get his weight up.
—It’s not just his weight.

She pushed the scale across the counter, baby in the pan, rocking and gurgling. Sheet metal scraped the countertop with a horrible screeching sound.

—We don’t get along.
—Well, sure, the first few months can be tough.
—We’re not compatible is what I’m saying.

I looked the baby over as if sizing him up for a gift box. I wondered what clothes I had at home that would fit him. I wondered what he ate.

—Are you looking for some kind of refund?
—So there is such a thing.
—Um. It’s rare. And there’s no money.

She knew when to keep her mouth shut. She was either still losing her belly or already showing. She waited.

—We have a special program.
—That sounds good.

I don’t think he remembers her. I can’t think of a reason to remind him, or any of his brothers and sisters.

Copyright © April 21, 2007 David Hodges

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