Ed King

Ed King by David Guterson Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Ed King by David Guterson Read Free Book Online
Authors: David Guterson
Tags: Fiction, Literary, Psychological, Philosophy, Free Will & Determinism
watching
Ozzie and Harriet
.”
    At the hospital, the obstetrician delivered a last-minute bad surprise: induction could take “several days.” This made Walter’s anxiety skyrocket, because his lies were good for a limited duration. He’d counted on the baby appearing on day one, then disappearing—on schedule—ninety-six hours later, but now, if he had to factor in several days
prior
to the birth for labor induction—well, he
couldn’t
factor that in. His whole ruse, at the last minute, would topple, or unravel. “What about a C-section?” he asked.
    It turned out that this was not his decision. He was banished to the waiting room to hope for the best, and to sit with another prospective father—twenty-five and balding—to whom Walter explained, when asked, what an actuary does, before both of them descended into nervous brooding. After four hours, to his relief, an intern came to tell him that labor was under way. Five hours after that, around 7 p.m., Diane gave birth to an eight-plus-pound boy, who, the obstetrician came to tell Walter, squalled loudly, with healthy lungs. When Walter first saw him, through glass, held closely to the pane by a maternity nurse, he noticed that his son wore a beaded bracelet identifying him as “Baby Doe.” Baby Doe, decided Walter, looked like his grandfather—like Walter’s father—who lived in Cincinnati with his third wife. He looked sturdy, healthy, strong-boned, and handsome, like most of the Cousins men, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with him. “Wow,” thought Walter, “that’s my son,” and for a moment he regretted that, as of three days hence, he’d never see him again. That was upsetting. That hurt a little. Another atrocious outcome of this swamp-march.
    From a hospital pay phone—from “Baltimore,” this time—he called Lydia. “Up late,” he said. “Long day here. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends.”
    “At a conference?”
    “I hate conferences.”
    “What’s keeping you up so late at a conference?”
    “I have to hunker down and prep for meetings. Otherwise, I’m not prepared, darling.”
    Then it was time for a visit with Diane, who was sitting up in bed in a blue hospital gown, a little peaked, with gray lips, greasy hair, and the amorphous torso of a completed pregnancy. “Diane,” he said cheerfully, “you’re looking good.”
    “How’s he doing?”
    “I was just there, checking. He’s a handsome kid. I got kind of caught up in looking at him and had to make myself stop staring at the little guy. It was emotional, Diane. Pretty painful.”
    “I’m not asking about you, Walter. I’m asking about him.”
    “Not a peep,” answered Walter. “Right now he looks happy. And how are you? Are you doing all right? Is everything looking like it should?”
    “Just terrific,” she answered.
    The sarcasm worried him, and his worry deepened when she crossedher thin arms—one with its hospital ID band askew—and shook her head as though her disgust with everything, but mainly him, was total.
    “I’m sorry,” he told her, once again. “It’s sad for me, too. It’s really, really sad, actually.”
    Diane’s sigh, on hearing this, was of the never-ending variety, and left him feeling, on top of worried, blue. Blue because this had to be the darkest day of her young life, and that he had a role in it—the main role, in fact—made him feel so sick about himself his eyes filmed. “Stop blubbering,” Diane said. “There’s still, you know, the forty-eight hours. The two days I have to change my mind.”
    Walter’s stomach clenched. “I don’t know,” he said, in a panic. “I don’t think you can change your mind at this point. I’m not too sure about that.”
    Diane pulled up her knees and hung on to them. “Of course I can,” she said. “Forty-eight hours. There is a
law
that says I have forty-eight hours.”
    “True,” said Walter, “but that’s just because people get emotional. They see the

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