Category C: Highly Commended (2020) Monash Short Story Writing Competition
Author: David Morley
Title: How they met
It was his blue eyes. That was how she knew. She had blue eyes, he had blue eyes, their babies would have big blue eyes. He was tall - six one by the old scale; brown curly hair, and he was a doctor. Well, nearly. Soon he would be a doctor. She was an accountant, a numbers girl. So their babies would be smart. Really smart. And caring. That was how she knew…
Pretty soon they got down to making those babies. It wasn’t easy. Neither of them had ever had any babies before, so they were kind of working it out as they went along. It was all about timing, she realized - not too early, not too late. His text books spelled it all out - hormones, Fallopian tubes, ovulation, implantation - sure it was supposed to be fun, but there was science behind it too. And if she applied the numbers to it, she could improve the odds. That’s what she told herself, anyway, as they tried, month after month.
Big red circles appeared on the calendar. Today. Tomorrow. The day after that. Sore from trying so hard. The first couple of months - nothing. Just more circles on next month’s calendar. Why wasn’t it working? More than seven billion people on Earth - couldn’t be that difficult, could it? More trying. What began as exciting became humdrum. Mechanical. Routine. Save up for the 21st, then go, go, go. Have a week off, then wait and see. No news is good news, because the news only ever says try again next month. Sorry.
Finally, after five months - no news. And soon after that, good news. Two little lines. Their first baby picture. Two little pink lines. So much effort, poured into making those two little lines. So much hope, founded upon those two little lines. A boy, a girl? A doctor, an accountant? Grandchildren? Prosperity, posterity?
But then, the news came. Better never than late, but late it came. And two lines became one again, and three hearts became two again, and one of those broke. At least, for a time, anyway. So they had a little break, for a time, and once the break had mended, they tried again some more. More circles. More clock-watching. More early nights. More dull aches the next day. More hopes, and dreams, that might or not come true.
And finally, once again - no news! And then - two more short lines of good news. But this time, there was no further news. And this time, there was a second baby picture, the size of a jelly bean, with heart number three like a pulsating flea! Picture three, in turn, confirmed the Pawnbroker’s Threesome - heart number three belonged to their little baby boy.
The rest was easy, really. Just waiting for the bun to cook. Set the timer for nine months and wait. And at nine months to the day, their bundle was duly delivered. A beautiful little boy, just like his daddy. With big blue eyes, just as his mummy had wished for, not so very long ago. No curly locks, just straight, like his mummy’s. But that was fine. Just fine. Quite fine indeed. We shall call him Felix.
And so they took him home. And fed him. And cleaned him. And put him to bed. And read him stories. And watched him learn to stand. And walk. And talk. And call his mummy ‘Mummy’ and his daddy ‘Daddy.’ When he called his mummy ‘Mummy’, she beamed, ‘Yes, my beautiful boy,’ and smooshed his chubby little cheeks, and kissed his downy soft head. But when he called his daddy ‘Daddy’, he just sort-of grunted, and went back to reading whatever he was reading at his desk.
Maybe it was because having the first one was so much trouble, but Daddy didn’t really want to have another one. He just rather preferred sitting at his desk. And reading whatever he was reading. And while he helped little Felix blow out the two candles on his second birthday cake, by the time there was a birthday cake with three candles to blow, only mummy was there to help him.
“Why can’t Daddy come to my birthday party?”
“Sometimes Daddys aren’t so very good at being Daddys, precious…”
“Can I have a party at his house too? It’s right next to McDonald’s.”
“He says he’s busy this week, so maybe next week…”
And so three hearts became two again. Another year went by, and now there were four candles to blow out. They huffed and puffed together.
“Mummy, will I ever have a brother or a sister? Everyone at kinder has brothers and sisters..”
“I don’t think so, baby. I think it’s just going to be you and me…”
“Why can’t I ever go to Daddy’s house any more?”
“Some Daddys just weren’t meant to be Daddys, baby…”
A cake with ten candles duly arrived. The duo huffed and puffed once more.
“How did you and Dad meet? Did you go to the disco together? That’s where Max’s mum and dad met.”
“Wow, umm… no. I met your dad on a computer. All the daddies put their names on a computer. You write a bit about yourself, and you pick whichever daddy you like best. That’s how we met.”
“Is that Tinder? Jarrod says his mum and dad met on Tinder.”
“No, it certainly was not Tinder… Did Bec and Jason really meet on Tinder? That explains a lot…”
“Hopefully you’ll never have to find out.”
A cake with twelve candles. The strapping young recipient was nearly as tall as his mother, and had no trouble blowing out all twelve on his own.
“Jesus, Felix.. Ask your father.”
“I can’t. He’s not here. Or maybe you hadn’t noticed…”
“He’s a doctor. When you see him, ask him. He’ll be able to tell you all about it.”
“Am I going to be a doctor?”
“If you do, they will teach you everything you want to know about sperm. At Medical School. In fact, that’s as good a reason as any for you to become a doctor. So that I don’t have to explain to you what sperm is.”
“Which medical school did Dad go to?”
“There’s only one in town - Excelsior.”
And, in time, a cake with eighteen candles, burning bright. And effortlessly extinguished.
“What will you do now that I am at Medical School, mum? You’ll have time to find yourself a new husband. Tinder, maybe?”
“Just because you’re twice as big me doesn’t mean I can’t smack you one. In the breadbasket. ‘Cos I can’t reach up to your face any more…”
“What about another doctor? You seem to like them. I could scout you out some eligible middle-aged medico.”
“I guess that would be ok. You would have to vet them first, and introduce us. None of this blind date business.”
“OK, deal. Hey, if I found a girlfriend, we could double-date. How about that?”
“Sure. But blue eyes. He has to have blue eyes.”
The phone call arrived well before the cake with nineteen candles.
“Mum, I’ve met someone. And I want you to meet them too.”
“Tell me more…”
“Well, we hooked up online. We’ve met up a few times now and we get on really well. It’s getting pretty serious, so I figure it’s about time to introduce you..”
“That sounds wonderful. Where will we meet?”
“Figaro’s, Friday, at eight. Dress nice.”
“What…? Why wouldn’t I dress nice?... I always dress nice. You’re the slob. You dress nice…”
“Trust me, mum. Figaro’s, Friday. Eight p.m.”
At 8.03pm that Friday, Fiona Markam, 51, certified practising accountant, arrived at Figaro’s Restaurant, wearing her best floral dress, with matching heels and clutch purse. She spied her scruffy son seated at a table by the window, his unruly overlength hair unwashed and flopping about his eyes as he gesticulated zealously towards his guest. He stood and waved rowdily; she made her way toward him. Seated opposite him was a tall man in a sharp blue suit; thick waves of greying hair clung tightly to his scalp, like a judge’s wig. He stood to introduce himself, and his blue eyes locked with hers.
“Dr. Richard Kinseyman. You must be Fiona. Felix has told me so much about you. It’s wonderful to finally meet you.”
“It’s lovely to meet you.. Felix, where is your date?”
“Ah, coming… Take a seat, mum, have some wine. Pinot grigio…”
“Since when do you know about wine?”
“Richard picked it. He’s an anaesthetist.”
“That’s Dr. Kinseyman to you, young man. I apologise for my son, Doctor, I thought I had taught him some manners…”
“Richard’s fine. You’re an accountant, Felix tells me…”
“Sure. You earn it, we hide it for you. Quite a few of our clients are doctors. And you’re an anaesthetist?”
“That’s right. It’s the easiest specialty because all of our patients are asleep. Felix tells me he has started his First Year at Excelsior. Following in his father’s footsteps..”
“Yes… He hasn’t seen his father, though - walked out on us before he was three years old. So he’s an only child. It’s just been the two of us. What about you, Richard? Have you got kids?”
“I certainly do. Eleven children to seven different mothers. But the last one walked out two years ago, so I find myself a bachelor once again.”
“Holy sh… I mean, wow, you must need a good accountant. How can you afford… anything??”
“Most of them are grown up now. And doing quite well. One’s just started at Medical School this year…”
“Oh, that’s wonderful. Is she your date, Felix?”
“Mum, Dad still lives at the same house next to McDonald’s. And he has brown eyes. And he’s a history teacher. He told me everything. So I went online, to the same website as you did. And I found Richard, just like you did. You probably remember him as ‘R.K.’, right? Medical student, 25, 185cm, blue eyes, wavy brown hair? Sound familiar?”
“Oh……oh, my goodness….. You’re……”
“I’ve only ever met three of the mothers of my children. And you are the fourth…”
So, you guessed it. The next cake was a wedding cake. And young Felix made the speech. About how he was conceived, but not quite in the usual way. And born. And raised. And then how his parents first met one another on a date that he organised for them. And then they got married. And their eighteen year-old son made the speech… Flanked by four of his seven half-brothers and two of his three half-sisters… Who all enjoyed a slice of their father’s second-ever wedding cake…