The Good Seed

To  be published mid-January 2018 in The Professor Anthology, an imprint of Zimbell House’s Temptation Press:

The professor was an afterthought. Even before he arrived for treatment, Robin was worrying how to bear a really smart child – reluctantly concluding that her husband Hod was not the best choice to father outstanding progeny.

Not that she didn’t love Hod. She did, completely and thoroughly; had never thought of straying. He was a thoughtful man, tall and handsome, a household helpmeet and a gentle lover, and would be a wonderful father – after the child was born, or at least conceived.

She’d increasingly seen newspaper and TV reports about the changing needs of the workplace. High school diplomas would soon have little value. Before long, college bachelor’s degrees might get an applicant job interviews, but probably not good jobs. Employers were increasingly looking for advanced degrees and “critical thinking” skills.

They had agreed that it was time to start a family; she would quit the pill and begin a calendar to track her renewed menstrual cycle. In a book borrowed from the library, she read that it would take a month to resume fertility, or sometimes longer. It was possible, although rare, to resume fertility without having had a period, the book said — a possible complication that she didn’t want to think about.

Hod wasn’t what anyone would call an intellectual. He taught high school history primarily to assure the after-school jobs he liked best, coaching almost every sport in its season. She went to most of his games, and patiently enjoyed hearing his next-morning analysis of each contest. On Sundays, she gave him the sports section and had the rest of the New York Times to herself. Apart from his own games and teams and talent recruitment, his favorite dinnertime topics were the Red Sox or Patriots or Celtics.

Thinking to broaden his horizons, she once took him to the art museum. Bad timing: It turned out to feature an exhibit of gays like Mapplethorpe and Warhol. Hod took one look and abandoned her, waiting in the coffee shop while she hastily toured the displays. He refused ever to go back to the museum.

He laughed at her when, in preparation for a pregnancy, she foreswore her occasional glass of wine and insisted they have fish twice a week. She’d read up on protecting and nourishing babies’ brains in utero: avoid alcohol; eat foods rich in omega-3s and DHA.

She wasn’t entirely confident that she had the genetic endowment to give a child a major leg up into the cerebral world, but she was sure that Hod didn’t. And their children would have to be smart to be successful.

She was a physical therapist at Harmony Acres, an upscale retirement community, helping older men and women make the most of new knees and hips or overcome problems ranging from arthritis to balance.

The “strength clinic,” Harmony Acres called it: a narrow, long room where she worked with two other exercise therapists. It was like a small gym, a cold, whitely over-lit, clinical place: balance bars; step machines; padded leather platforms whose height she could adjust for prone exercises; thick foam rubber pads on which people hopped or stepped to flex leg muscles; racks of dumbbells and inflatable balls of every size.

Come back in mid-January to read the rest

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