The Gift

2011 Fiction Contest—Adult Honorable Mention



(page 1 of 4)

Miranda bends to pick up the discarded packaging. She scans the expiration date while she sits, tilted forward, on the edge of the toilet seat. Then she looks back at her other hand, at the blue positive sign tucked into the little plastic window. She can see the answer but the cold porcelain seat against her bare bottom is the only thing she can feel. Finally, she stands up and zips her pants, looks at but does not see the rest of her pee swirling around the bowl and disappearing.

Miranda is 48 years old. Her friends are in a panic over their children's driving lessons and college applications. Miranda complains along with them about bad knees and wrinkles; about not being able to remember where one put the keys or eye glasses---put anything, really. She had glanced at the tissue wipe for weeks without finally realizing why. A missed period at 48 means nothing, except that your body is stuttering towards its ultimate grief. But her mother was well into her 50’s before menopause struck.

And so Miranda wondered. But she did nothing to verify. She balanced on an imaginary beam, dipping her toes this way and that, on the edge between "what if" and "couldn't be." She surprised herself that she still could play so daintily with the possibility. She assumed that she had long extinguished that daydream, along with the guilt over her body’s failure, and the shame of her pointless longing.

And now the blue plus in the little plastic window---three times more. She has not told a soul, not even her husband. There were so many times when she wished for, prayed for, imagined the opportunity to say such words. Twirled and teased them in her mouth like a tongue licking ice cream. Now she has no words. Just the taste of nausea, but without the edgy thrill. Is it good news any longer?

*

Miranda tells her children they can have an hour of television---on a school night. They run to the front room before she changes her mind. Miranda pours her and her husband full glasses of wine.

"I have some news," she says to Eric.

"Sam didn't fail another math test, did he? I'm not sure how much more tutoring we can afford."

"I'm pregnant."

Eric's expression moves through pain and confusion, as if he is fast-forwarding through an old home movie, one she long ago tucked into a bottom drawer. The one that documented the indignities of medically orchestrated reproduction, and the exhausting, unproductive cycle of hope and disappointment. She knows what he was thinking: They left all that behind 13 years ago when they strapped Sam in the infant seat, hugged his birthmother tight, and drove home. That night, they watched Sam unceasingly, recording every tiny movement, wondering, because it seemed so preposterous in light of the circumstances: had two parents ever loved their child more?

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"How far along? I mean...could you still have a miscarriage?”

"Nothing will go wrong this time. Otherwise it wouldn't be so thoroughly ridiculous."

"Do you want to keep it?" Eric asks.

"I don't know." She smiles to realize they have not congratulated each other on the news.

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