Our Insidious Polymerase: A Novel / 23 September 1998
In mid-1983, Cecile and Anthony decided they were ready to have a baby. Anthony’s refinishing company was doing well and Cecile had just gotten a raise at TDF, so things were squared away financially, and the time just seemed right. It was like the heavens were crying out for it. This one time they were at a Chinese restaurant downtown and Cecile cracked open her fortune cookie and inside the fortune said:
EATING BLESSED SKIN RUPTURE IN EXCITING OF VIEW
…and the two of them looked at each other, an electric-hot serpent of bluegreen fire circuiting between their eyes, and they simultaneously realized that the fortune was telling them, in effect, to “go for it.” So birth control devices were tossed and the daily calendar that featured the wit and wisdom of the comic-strip cat called Garfield was consulted, dates circled in menstrual red.
One evening, Cecile and Anthony were splitting a bottle of Old Crow and feeling the hot sting of their love for each other when there was a knock at the door. Anthony checked the peep-window and was suprised and excited to see his old Uncle Ernie out there in the cold, propped up by the transparent plastic tube he used as a cane.
“Uncle!” Anthony cried, throwing open the door. “What are you doing here?”
Uncle Ernie hobbled in, a horrific smile playing feebly across his post-stroke face. “I have no idea,” he said. “The night just pushed me here.”
“Well that’s beautiful, just plain beautiful,” Anthony exclaimed. “C’mon in. Cecile and I were just getting lubed up for some intercourse.”
“Hi-i-i!” Cecile called from the living room.
“Intercourse?” Uncle Ernie gasped, all merriment suddenly drained from his body. “You mean like fucking?”
“Yeah. We’re going to try and have a baby!”
Uncle Ernie gripped Anthony by the shoulders with an oddly inhuman strength. “Boy, you listen good and you listen hard. There’ll be no male member of my family fucking with a big beer belly like yours.”
Anthony patted his stomach with affection. “Aw, c’mon, Cecile don’t mind. She says it gives her something to hold on to.”
“Anthony!” Uncle Ernie was trembling with rage. “Think of your family, think of your baby. When you have intercourse, that sperm records all the current data about you and sends it right to the egg. You want your kid to grow up with a big gut like that? And you might want to consider some night classes, too.”
“Gosh, I never thought of that,” Anthony said, eyes downcast.
“Honey, what is it?” Cecile was still in the other room, half-watching the final minutes of MAS*H.
So Anthony spent the next few weeks at the gym doing sit-ups and abstaining from the McDLTs. He tried jogging but that didn’t stick. He started going through the dictionary, too, learning a few new words each day. He checked out a cassette tape from the library that taught him how to speak French. He subscribed to National Geographic, but the first issue didn’t arrive until after he and Cecile had decided it was OK to proceed.
“Honey, honey, try to suck it in.”
“OK. It’s pretty toned, though. Check out the six-pack.”
“Honey, OK, just keep going, don’t lose your focus.”
“Mm. Mm. Je vais à la plage.”
“That’s it. C’mon baby.”
“Je m’appelle Antoine.”
“Voilá la voiture.”
“Focus, baby, focus, stay with me.”
“Yeah, baby, yes.”
“Oh god, yes!”
“We find the defendent guilty, your honor,” said the foreman, reading from a slip of paper.
The courtroom exploded in a fury of activity. Anthony Jr. didn’t speak, didn’t even move. Even then, even there at the end, after all the trauma and the nightmares and the scandal, the front-page headlines and public outcry, even then, his only thoughts were of her, the woman he was born to love, the woman he was meant to be with but who kept shunning his offers of devotion, his little presents, his surprise visits. Why did she continue to spurn him? Why did she insist on fighting it, as if either of them had a choice in the matter?
Cheryl Tiegs donned her sunglasses and was quickly escorted out of the room by her attorney. The hallway outside exploded in a frenzy of flashbulbs and she met them with a million-dollar smile, like the swelling dew greeting the dawn of a new day.