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THE WAITING ROOM

By David Schock

"Mrs. Alvarez, the doctor will see you know," said the receptionist hiding behind her sliding window. Mrs. Alvarez tried her best to stand up and follow the nurse who came out to greet her and guide her to the examination room. But in her eighth month of pregnancy, getting to her feet was one of the problems she had learned to endure..

The large man who had been sitting next to her jumped to his feet and offered his hand to help her up. Grateful for the concern showed to her by a helpful stranger, Mrs. Alvarez, mother of six, accepted the outstretched hand. Mrs. Alvarez had expected to feel strength in the arm of her benefactor. One glance at the size of the man told her that. What she didn't expect was the gentleness that went along with it. Working together, Mrs. Alvarez was at last able to get up on her feet. She thanked him for his kindness and began waddling after the nurse.

Sitting back down on the couch, the big man in the red flannel shirt did his best to find some thing of interest to read in a five-year-old copy of Redbook. He had just began to read a recipe for pecan fudge when a middle-aged man suddenly loomed over him.

The newcomer looked down, smiled and said "Do you mind if I sit?" as he pointed to the empty space on the couch. For an answer the man in the flannel shirt moved over to make room for him.

The newcomer carried an issue of the newly revived Sports Illustrated and showed his new neighbor the article he was reading. "There's talk about starting up the Major Leagues again next year. It will be a great thing if they could do it."

"I hope they can pull it off," his neighbor in the flannel shirt said, "It would be nice to think I could be able to take my kid to a baseball game someday."

"Amen to that, Brother,"

"I can't think of a better sign to the rest of the country that this sorry old world of ours might once again be starting to get back to normal," added the man in flannel.

Putting down the magazine, the visitor said, "The real reason I came over to join you is that, no matter how often I come here, I still feel uncomfortable sitting here in a sea of pregnant women."

The large man in flannel said, "Since Doctor Grant is one of the best obstetricians on the East Coast, it would seem only natural that one should expect her office would be overly stocked with ladies in various degrees of pregnancy."

"That part I can expect and understand," came the reply. "What I did not expect to meet is someone my own age here in the waiting room."

"Why not?" the big man asked.

"I've been here many times before and I don't get to see many guys our age in here with their wives.

"Why is that?" the man in the flannel shirt asked.

"The fathers I see when I come here are the young men," the other man explained. "It's the newlyweds who are expecting their first baby who come along with their wives. Guys our age who are working on their third or fourth bundle of joy usually don't bother coming along any more."

"May I ask how many this next one will make for you?" asked the man dressed in flannel. The stranger held up his hand with the palm out and all of the fingers extended. "This one will be my fifth."

"Congratulations," the big man in flannel said.

"And you?" the man with the large family asked.

"The wife and I, as some folks might say are working on our first,"

The devoted reader of Sports Illustrated was surprised as he looked at the graying hair around the temples and the lines around the eyes of the man he was sharing a bench with. "This is your first baby?" he asked.

A shy nod of the head was the only answer.

"May I ask how far along your wife is?" the man continued.

"Seven, almost eight months."

"How long have you been married?"

"Next week will be our third month anniversary," was the answer.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have pried into your affairs. It's none of my business," he told the man in the flannel shirt.

"No, you don't understand. My wife has always been very independent and ferociously self-reliant. When I asked her the first time for the honor of marrying me, she refused, saying she would rather just share the rest of our lives together. But I always wondered what my parents would think of us if they were still alive and that troubled me. Then we found out the baby was on its way. Finally my wife realized how much it would mean to me to be married and she at last consented to 'make an honest man out of me.'

"There were still problems, of course. Like were we should live. Then there was the question of religion. I'm Methodist and my wife isn't even Christian. But in her own way, she is a very religious person. She thought not being a Christian would be a problem for me until I convinced her otherwise."

"She's a jap?" asked the father of five.

A flash of anger crossed the face of the big man as he said, "My wife is not Asian and you have no right to label people with that vulgarity!"

"No offence to your wife is intended. I think you misunderstood me, I didn't mean Japanese, I meant Jewish American Princess."

"That is almost as bad!" the big man answered.

"Would it help to tell you I'm Jewish myself?" cajoled his neighbor.

"Then you should know better," the man in flannel admonished him. He paused for a moment than added, "Even though you are half right."

"Tell me, how did your wife convince you to come here with her?" asked the reader of Sports Illustrated, clearly eager to move onto a different topic.

"Just the opposite. I'm the one who had to talk her into coming to see the doctor." Seeing the puzzled look on the face of the stranger, the big man in the flannel shirt tried his best to explain.

"My wife wants to have our child in the traditional way with a midwife at home surrounded by family and friends. I wanted her in the hospital with a doctor in case well you know, in case something goes wrong? Well, she wouldn't hear of it. After a very long argument, we compromised; she can have her traditional birth, but only if she agreed to have the most modern prenatal care available.

"Well, that's the secret to a good marriage," the father of five said. "Compromise and keep compromising until your wife gets just what she wants."

The big man in flannel laughed at the truth of the statement. When he stopped, he took the opportunity to ask, "Since you are an old hand at this father business, can I ask you… does it get any easier?"

"For the mama, yes; for the papa, definitely no," was the reply. "All the mistakes you have made during the first pregnancy, your wife will remind you not to make during the second. You will not; you will make brand new ones. Which your wife will be all to happy to compare to the first set of mistakes you made when she was pregnant with the first child and so on and so forth.

"While this is going on your wife will be crying, and if you make some new mistakes she cries and tells you if you really loved her you would already know not to make these mistakes. Women are really into crying at this time in their lives. Almost anything can touch it off: sunsets, sunrises, rain, no rain, CNN, bunny rabbits, baby furniture. They will cry at a drop of a hat; they will cry for anything and everything. It's a hormonal thing."

"My wife was in her third month when the crying began," the big man said. "It frightened the hell out of me. Took her right to the doctor. Thought she was coming down with something."

"Why did that bother you so much?" asked the sports lover. "You trying to tell me you never saw your own wife cry before?"

"Please believe me when I tell you my wife is not the crying type. Last month I took my wife home so she could visit her mother and her sisters. She was nervous, she was not sure they would accept the marriage or the baby. When we got there, her sisters threw her a surprise baby shower, and I mean a big baby shower. In the history of baby showers, this one had to be, without a doubt, the biggest one on record. I remember, she was so happy when they gave her this surprise. So happy, in fact, she started to cry for the sheer joy of moment.

"When her Mother and sisters saw her start to cry they looked at her as if she had grown an extra head. And at me like I was the world's worst supervillain for having been the cause of it all."

"What's wrong with her family? Haven't they seen a woman cry out of happiness before?"

"Not on that island."

Wishing to change the subject, the newest subscriber to Sports Illustrated asked, "So, your wife is almost eight months along?"

A nod of the head was the only answer he received.

"Let me guess, your missus has already completed her nesting phase?"

"What is the nesting phase?" the big man asked.

"It usually starts the third month and lasts until your wife can no longer bend over to touch her toes. The symptoms are constant cleaning and redecorating of the baby room and the master bedroom. They always start working in the baby room first, putting up the wall paper with the pink bunnies and the fluffy clouds, and that sort of thing."

"With my wife, it was murals she painted herself: the burning of Troy, the hall of the Gods on Mt. Olympus, Jason and the Argonauts, the Minotaur and lots of drawings of Pegasus the winged horse."

"I take it your wife is a classical scholar?" observed the father of five.

"She lived it all her life."

"I bet she has been working on your bedroom too: satin pillows, a new canopy bed and she has been adding so much lace around the room, you're afraid to touch anything?"

"You're right about her changing the decor, but not in the way you describe."

"Oh? How has she changed your bedroom?"

"On the walls she put up a battleaxe, a spear, two swords, four shields and the one and only bow of Ulysses. When she finished, she had our bedroom looking like Alexander the Great's recruitment office for the Macedonian army. It's like trying to sleep in General Patton's rumpus room."

"Take it from a father of four going on five. Women all go a little crazy at this time in their lives. Just remember this: never ever criticize. After the baby comes she will change your bedroom all over again. Just don't make a issue of it. I had to learn this the hard way. Don't make the same mistakes I did all the other times my wife was pregnant."

"Mind telling me what they were?"

"When my wife was pregnant with our first baby she burnt the toast."

"You didn't complain, did you?" the big man asked.

"Are you crazy?" the father of five answered. "All I did was get up from the table and scrape the black part off over the sink, then I sat back down, smiled and said, 'Honey, can you pass the butter, please?' She picked it up and threw it at me.

"She was pregnant with our third child when we were making a big pot of tomato sauce together. We were having a wonderful time cooking together, sharing the moment; we even managed to have a romantic moment over a hot kitchen stove. She went in the pot with a wooden spoon and offered me some to taste and it was great, almost perfect. I made the mistake of saying, 'Maybe it could use a pinch more oregano.' She responded by breaking the wooden spoon over my head."

"Something like that happened to me," observed the first-time father. "Normally my wife is gentle, compassionate and caring. But she does have a bit of a temper. That is what I love about herÑ a combination of opposites. But with the baby on the way, she has been going a little to far to the extreme. Two weeks ago we went shopping for some new maternity clothes. My wife has always been proud of her physique. Not vain, but she was always in perfect condition. Tall, well-muscled, a body any Olympic champion would be willing to die for."

"A regular Amazon, eh? asked the father of five.

"Yes," was the reply. "We had just finished shopping for her 'fat clothes,' as she called them and she was really down in the dumps. Her back hurt and her tummy was out to here." He held his hands about a foot in front of himself to show what he meant. "All the while, she was saying, 'I'm fat and I'm ugly.' I told her, 'You're not fat, you're pregnant and you're
more beautiful than ever.'"

"Always a good thing to say to a women, especially a pregnant women."

"And I meant every word," added the new father-to-be. He paused for a moment to relive in his mind what was about to come next. "My wife then said, 'I look just like a beached whale.' I took her in my arms and in turn said, 'There is just more of you for me to love…'"

"Oh, no, you really didn't say that, did you?" said the voice of experience.

"I meant every word."

"That just makes it worse," said the father of five.

"I found that out the hard way." the big man in flannel said. "She lost her temper, went postal and hit me."

"What did she use, her pocketbook or her shoe? My wife is a expert with a shoe," said the father of five.

The first-time father-to-be sadly replied, "A Buick."

"Ouch. Pregnant women shouldn't be allowed to drive."

"She wasn't driving at the time."

Thinking that he heard wrong, the father of five went on to ask, "Were you in a lot of pain?"

"Only when I had to pay for Buick."

The father of five merely dismissed it as the inane rambling of a neophyte papa. He had just come to this conclusion when the afore mentioned neophyte asked him another question. "Did your wife have any crazy food cravings when she was pregnant?" he asked.

"She did and she does," he answered. "They came with every pregnancy and were different for every child. I could tell you horror stories of me driving through the night trying to find a store that sells smoked eels and polish sausage."

The father-to-be gave his mentor a sympathetic look and said, "I had always believed an expectant mother's graving for strange food was nothing more than a hackneyed plot device for corny television shows. But ever since the third month of my own wife's pregnancy I know
better.

"Listen to what happened to me only two nights ago. It was three o'clock in the morning and I am sound asleep. When my wife begins to kick me. I pretend I'm still asleep but she knows better, so she just starts to kick harder. I finally give up my charade and ask her, 'What's wrong, honey?' She then has the nerve to ask me, 'Did I wake you, dear?'

'Of course not,' I tell her. With that she gives me a passionate hug and begins to nibble my ear."

"Uh-oh!" the father of five said. "That's always a bad sign."

"Tell me about it. I waited with a mixture of dread and curiosity for her to drop her next little bombshell on me. 'Do we have any pig feet, pickled pigs feet?' she asked me. 'No,' I answered her. 'Would it be too much trouble if you went and got me some?' she asked me innocently. In turn, I ask her 'Wouldn't you rather have a nice cold Apocalypse pie instead? I can run right down to the freezer and get one for you.' 'That would be nice,' she cooed. She than proceeded to place my hand on her bare stomach and hold it there until I felt the baby kick. She then said, 'But we would really like some pickled pigs feet If it's not too much trouble.'

'Nooo… trouble at all, my little flower, I told her. I once made the mistake of saying no about four months earlier, and let me tell you I won't ever make that mistake again. So I find my self standing outside at sixty-five degrees below zero, one hundred and two with the wind chill, trying to think of the best place to go for pickled pigs feet."

"Where on earth is it one hundred and two degrees below zero?" the father of five asked.

"Antarctica," was the one-word reply. "I flew to New York, Chicago and Vienna. Finally I found the brand she wanted in a little deli outside of Hamburg.

"I came home, got a nice big plate of the pigs feet together and brought it up to her in bed. She looks at me and says, 'Where's the sushi? You forgot the sushi!' 'You know that's impossible,' I tell her.

'Don't tell me you can't forget because I know better!' she starts to yell. 'I know you can, in fact, forget, because you just proved it by forgetting the sushi!' then she starts to cry.

"I don't argue, I tell her, you want sushi, you get sushi. I turn around and as I'm walking out the door I hear, 'And make sure you get it from that little place we ate in last month.' Now I find my self on the way to Aikido, Japan, for sushi."

"I arrived at the restaurant. It was, of course, closed that time in the morning. Luckily for me the owner and his family lived above his place of business. He was kind enough to open his bar early to make me an order to go. I arrive home and find the wife sound asleep with a half empty jar of pickled pigs feet on the night table and a plate of bones on the floor.

"The next morning when I am eating my oatmeal, my wife is eating raw fish for breakfast. You have any idea what it's like trying to eat oatmeal when the women you love is sitting across the breakfast table eating raw fish dipped in mayonnaise? I got sick and I always thought that was impossible. But my wife seems to thrive on it."

"I've been were you are now and I can understand what you're going through." the father of five hesitated for a moment, stuck out his hand and said, "By the way, the name is Bob."

Taking hold of the offered hand, the big man in the flannel shirt said, "And you can call me Clark."

"Listen to me, Clark, this is your first baby so I hope you don't mind taking some advice from a five-time loser," he said with a wry grin.

"I appreciate all the help I can get," Clark said.

"Just remember, they are our wives and we love them and it's our job as husbands and soon-to-be fathers. To try our best to make this time as easy as possible for the women we love."

"I could not agree more with you, Bob."

"I know for a guy like you it's harder than for the rest of us," said Bob.

"What do you mean by a guy like me?" the new father-to-be asked.

"You know, someone whose middle-aged, with a young wife. Gives you even more problems than the rest of us new fathers had to face."

"Young wife," Clark said. "Who ever said my wife is young? She's older than I am."

"How old are you?" asked Bob dumbfounded.

"I will be seventy-five this coming February," answered Clark.

"Seventy-five?" Bob said incredulously. "You look more like you're forty-five. And how can your wife be having a baby if she is older than you?"

Before Clark could answer his new friend, one of the nurses came out and said, "Mr. Kent, we're having that same trouble again…"

"I will be right with you, nurse," he replied. Standing up he offered his hand to Bob, who took it. As the two men shook hands Clark looked down at the shorter man and said, "I want to thank you for spending this time talking with me, Bob. Your insights as a expectant father have been a big help to me."

He shook his hand once more then followed the nurse to the examination room. As the big man left Bob, the father of four with one more on the way said to him self, "Kent! Clark Kent, where have I heard that name before?"

Clark knocked, then he waited in the hallway until he was told he could come in. As he entered the examination room he saw that his wife Princess Diana, daughter of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, nation of Themyscira and known to the world at large as Wonder Woman was floating some seven feet above the floor. She was naked except for the paper sheet she had draped over herself and she was obviously very pregnant.

Levitating up to her side, Superman took her in his arms and held her. She then turned and said to him, "I don't know why this keeps happening to me. Every time I come here for my prenatal examination. I get nervous, my feet start to shake, then I start to float and I can't get down."

"Maybe because you're flying for two now," he told her with a gentile smile. Wonder Woman gave a little laugh back in return.

Holding her in his arms Clark said, "Take a deep breath, relax let it out and let yourself go and leave the flying to me. Diana did as instructed and soon Superman could feel the weight of his wife in his arms once more. He gracefully floated down from the ceiling and placed his wife back on the table. He stood by her side, squeezing her hand as the doctor completed her examination.

While the doctor finished up with his wife, Clark looked down to the end of the table and saw the bent and twisted metal. He then knew that Diana had destroyed another set of stirrups. As Clark stood there holding his wife's hand, the doctor talked to them both as she worked.

"We tried the ultra sound again today but it was a no-go. Diana's skin is too dense to allow the sound waves to travel once it passes through the epidermal layer of her skin. The same for the amniocentesis; we can't find a needle that does not break. Every other test has come out perfect. We just won't know the sex of the child."

"Doesn't matter, Doctor, as long as he or she is healthy."

"My bill and the bill for a new examination table will be sent to the address in Gotham as usual," the physician remarked.

Diana squeezed her husband's hand and said, "Good thing our baby's godfather insisted on paying the medical bills, or else your clumsy beach ball of a wife would put you in the poor house paying for all the damage she does."

"Just as long as we go there together," he said. When the doctor had finished and Diana was dressing, Superman told her, "Since you have been a very good patient today I will let you pick the restaurant for lunch."

Wonder Woman was finding it almost impossible to bend over to put on her shoes. Her husband, seeing her plight, knelt down to help her. While he was putting on her socks and shoes, Diana said, "I do have this incredible craving for Peking Duck."

"You're in luck," Superman said. "The best Peking Duck in the country is made right here Metropolis, in a small restaurant across the street from Centennial Park."

"I said, 'Peking Duck,'" she pouted, with a bit of a wild gleam in her eye.

Instead of resenting the request or his wife's attitude, Clark sighed and said, "Maybe we'll stop off on the way in Hong Kong for some of those shrimp you like so much."

Wonder Women squealed and jumped into the most powerful arms on earth. "Will there be any problems with us flying that far, Doctor?" Clark asked.

"I don't think so," she answered. "Just be careful when you break the sound barrier."

"We will," they both answered. They flew out the window the doctor had just opened for them, Clark with Diana in is arms, heading north to take the polar route to China for lunch.

All characters are ™ DC Comics
This story is © 1999 by .

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