Monday, June 27, 2011

Little Ray of Sunshine

“Did you ask Charlie?”
“Yep, he’s a no go,” Jeff replied. He dabbed a small wedge-shaped brush into the titanium white and phthalo blue acrylics, blended it and smeared it on a canvas propped on a large wooden easel.

“Well, who does that leave?” Marie asked. She stood over the paint-splattered utility sink in Jeff’s art studio with an empty purple vase. Marie placed the vase under the faucet, which triggered the sensor and the water turned on automatically.

“Nobody. We’ve gone through the list. Nobody else wants to donate. Maybe you should widen your criteria a little bit, Marie. I mean, you are being very, very picky.”
She glanced over at her husband. “Of course I am, Jeff! I want to make sure the baby is healthy and reasonably intelligent and doesn’t look like a Neanderthal. Gabe looks like Cro Magnon man, Ross has an IQ of 10 and Justin has that funny eye tic thing.” Marie picked up a bunch of fresh-picked sunflowers off the concrete work counter and arranged them in the vase. “Don’t tell me you think they would make acceptable sperm donors.”
“I suppose not.” Jeff painted a while in silence, thinking.
“So...okay. Who else do we know that we are close enough to that we could go up to them and say—‘do you mind masturbating and putting your cum in this turkey baster here? My wife wants you to knock her up.’” Jeff’s eyes sparkled in amusement. “Speaking of turkey basters, you would think they would have more high tech ways to insert it than that.”
“It isn’t a turkey baster.”
“Well, it sure as heck looks like one!” He waved the paintbrush at her to emphasize his point.
“Ugh. You make the whole process sound so sordid.”
“That doesn’t sound any more sordid than, ‘Mind if we get a sample of blood first? We want to run some tests. We want to make sure you don’t have any diseases.’”

“Yeah, well. We need to be careful. Just because I want a baby doesn’t mean I want diseased ejaculate. Thank God for that home testing kit.”
“A guy with cancer isn’t going to have diseased ejaculate, Marie.”
“I know that!”
“It seems strange to me that we can test for the presence of cancer, and just about every other disease under the sun and yet you still have to insert the ejaculate with a turkey baster.”
“Enough about the damn turkey baster!”
“See, even you think it looks like one!” Jeff ducked the sunflower Marie playfully tossed his way and laughed. He picked the flower off his palette and frowned. Goopy blue paint stuck to a few petals. “I know you want a baby, Marie, but I don’t know how much longer we can keep trying. This keeps up, we’ll be in the poorhouse. The tests, the fertility treatments—it’s all so expensive.”
“I know. Don’t remind me. I don’t want to think about it.” Marie fiddled with the vase. “Did you get a chance to talk to your brother?”
“Yeah. Mike says if we run out of options he’ll think about it.”
# # #
Jeff navigated his dinky snot-colored Prius through thick afternoon traffic and not for the first time wished that he had the money to update their mode of transport. Hybrids were out these days. Everybody was switching to water powered as the cheap wave of the future. But what little money they had long been spent. Their spacious four bedroom house. Gone. Jeff’s motorcycle. Gone. All things worth anything of value hocked long ago.
They needed the money. Marie’s continued insistence on expensive fertility treatments necessitated that. Jeff would have put a stop to it a long time ago, but his inability to make Marie pregnant—his infertility—made him feel like he owed it to her. He felt like less of a man unless he could get her what she wanted. She wanted a baby, so he was determined to get her one.

But the longer time passed and the more they tried and failed, the more and more depressed and desperate Marie got. Now with the money gone, Marie’s hopes had vanished. For the last month or two, all she did was mope around the house. Even if Marie had been willing to entertain the idea of adoption, they couldn’t now. Jeff was worried.
A school bus full of children stopped and put out the red stop sign. Jeff idled his Prius behind it. He wondered Marie herself was infertile, since the last couple of years of Marie’s expanded search for compatible donors and attempt after attempt at conception failed. Ordinarily, watching the happy children file out of the bus would have left him feeling empty.
But today is a different day. Devon told him the way.
# # #
Jeff unlocked the door to their tiny new apartment, and set some groceries on the table. Jeff noticed that Marie sat curled up on the sofa, a cup of chamomile tea sitting on the table next to her. The same position she was in when he left that morning.
“Marie. I think I found something that will work.”
She didn’t answer. He walked over to her and perched on the edge of the sofa next to her. He gently stroked her hair. “Honey. I think I found something that will work this time.”
Marie uncurled from her position and looked at him. She looked away. “Don’t get my hopes up, Jeff. I can’t bear that again. Mike was the last straw. How could he be infertile, too? He and Gail have three kids!”
“Mike and Gail are divorcing. I think you know why.”
Marie snorted. “It’s kind of funny in a really twisted way.”
“Well, at least you’re smiling. That’s the first time in over a month. Too bad it’s over my brother’s pain…”
Marie laughed. She stopped laughing abruptly. “I’m serious, Jeff. I can’t take any more disappointment.”
“I know. But I think you are going to want to hear this.”
Marie hesitated then nodded for him to continue.
“A buddy of mine know a guy who works for a clinic. It’s a fertility clinic, but it’s underground. No insurance, no credit. Cash only. They do things that aren’t exactly… legal. They inject women with high doses of Clomethine, with the expectation that if more than two eggs get fertilized they get to keep the rest. The other eggs are used for medical research.”
“What about the donors? Are they tested?”
“Yes.”
“How much is this going to cost us?”
“Don’t worry about it. I sold a painting!”
“You did? Oh, that’s great, Jeff! Wonderful!”
“I made you an appointment. It’s for tomorrow.”
“You have to make appointments at an illegal clinic?”
“Well, no. But that is when I told the guy we would be there.”
Marie hesitated. “I don’t know, Jeff. This doesn’t seem right. I mean, if they are taking my eggs and doing terrible research on the babies….”
“Oh, no! It’s nothing like that! It’s...I think they do stem cell research. The embryos are never born or anything. Don’t feel a thing.”
“How do you know?”
“Look, Marie. This could be the chance you wanted. You do want it, don’t you? All we’ve ever wanted was a little ray of sunshine.”
Marie nodded slowly. “Yeah, I do.”
# # #
Marie and Jeff drove through the run-down neighborhood with growing apprehension. The clinic might be operating illegally, but Marie couldn’t imagine it being located in the midst of run-down graffiti-covered tenement buildings. She witnessed at least three drug transactions just in the last block. Junkies, vagrants and other undesirables sat on stoops and watched them noncommittally as they passed.
“There!” Jeff cried. “He said to park in the alley and come in through the outside basement entrance.”
“Jeff…I don’t like this. I’m scared.”
“Don’t be, honey. I’m here with you. We’ll be fine!”
The Prius barely had room to navigate through all the trash and debris in the alley. After parking, Marie allowed Jeff to escort her to the basement stairs. Marie noted the people across the street watching them. She felt like prey. Marie tried to shrug the feeling off. The pair descended the stairs and knocked on the door.
The door opened a crack. An immense bald man in a cheap suit and expensive bling could just barely be seen through it. “Yeah,” he said.
“Devon sent us,” Jeff said.
The door shut and they heard the chain being unclasped. The door reopened, and the fat man ushered them through. The room certainly didn’t look like a doctor’s office. It looked on the inside like it did on the outside. An old, run-down basement. There were tables and a few chests that looked like refrigerators or possibly freezers. A couple of burly men with funny plastic aprons lumbered in from another room. Marie noticed splattered brown stains on the walls. A copper smell hung in the air.
What was that? Suddenly Marie realized just what it was. Blood. She grabbed Jeff and spun around. The big man who let them in blocked their exit. Marie stiffened as she felt 30,000 volts of electricity hit her back. She was vaguely aware of she and Jeff falling on the concrete floor. Then it went black.
# # #
Marie didn’t remember how she got to the hospital. In fact, she completely blocked what had happened out of her mind. She didn’t want to remember. She just knew Jeff was dead and she was a widow. The police told her that they rescued her from a body farm—a chop shop for human beings. The body farm sold the parts on the black market for those who needed transplants.
The hospital staff treated her well, though. She had been given a thorough physical to determine if anything had been harvested from her and to see what damages she might have sustained.

All Marie could think about was going home. She wanted to take Jeff’s dirty laundry and lay down in it, so she could smell his scent one more time.
But her doctor insisted on talking to her about it. Said it was important. He pulled up a chair next to her.

“Mrs. Kelly, most everything looks good.” the doctor informed her. “You are healthy. Nothing was removed that we can determine. They must have been holding you these last few weeks until they needed something.”
“Can I go home now? Wait. You said ‘most everything.’ What didn’t look good?”
“There is no easy way to say this. There is evidence of repeated rapes, Mrs. Kelly. But, if you get some rest, don’t move around too much for a while, you should heal up nicely and I think you will still be able to have the baby just fine.”
Marie felt sick. Her stomach clenched and she gagged.
“I…I’m pregnant? It’s not possible. My husband is…was… infertile. That’s why we went there in the first place. We thought it was a fertility clinic.”
“Ah. Well, the ultrasound shows your approximate conception date pretty darn close to the date you told me you were kidnapped. I was hoping for your sake you were already pregnant. These things can be off by a day or two sometimes.”
Marie knew without a doubt it couldn’t be Jeff’s. They hadn’t made love for a couple of months. Her deepening depression robbed her of her desire. Then the images of her attackers came—an unbidden horror show meant only for her.
“Get it out of me! I don’t want it!!” She shrieked, “Not like this! Not! Like! This!”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Kelly. State law says the hospital can’t perform abortions legally unless it is medically necessary to save the life of the mother or unless the fetus is already expired.”
Wailing, Marie fled her bed and stumbled toward the door. She rushed toward the nurse’s station and snatched up a pair of bandage scissors. The nurses and hospital personnel rushed her and grabbed her arms to prevent her from hurting herself. Marie struggled and screamed.
# # #
Marie opened her eyes. They felt crusty with sleep. She didn’t know where she was, but she was tied to a bed in a nearly empty room. It was dark. She tried desperately to remember who she was and why she was here, wherever here was.

Things started coming back to her, slowly at first. Then a torrent. She screamed, but found she had screamed out long before. Nothing croaked out but a hoarse whisper of a noise.

There were no windows in this white room, but there was a skylight. Dawn came. She watched in horror as a little ray of sunshine broke through the darkness of her room and lit upon her swollen belly.

2 comments:

  1. *Shudder* Gee, I guess you really have to be careful what you wish for...
    Nicely done, Holly.

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  2. Hah! I get that *shudder* response, for some reason. One of the ladies in my writing group had a similar reaction.

    As for my theme...well, wishing for something is one thing, but to be so desperately fanatical--"I'm gonna die unless I have X"--is what we need to be leery of. That's what I took issue with in this story.

    It was fun to write! I'm glad you liked it. :)

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