Icarus Flew Higher [FICTION]

A story about ADD in four pages


Two men sat in the maternity ward waiting room, total strangers thrown together by a shared circumstance. The burly older man, called away from his construction job, was calmly leafing through some magazines while he surreptitiously watched the young man in a business suit pacing nervously. The younger man was well dressed, looking like he had stopped to choose his wardrobe before rushing off to the hospital. His suit was brand new but intentionally conservative and looked out of place on such a young person. The only attempt at daring style was a wisp of a moustache, barely visible floating above his upper lip.

The older man broke the silence. “First kid?”

The younger man smiled nervously as he fiddled with the knot of his tie. “Well, yes. And you?”

A rough laugh bubbled up from deep within his chest. “Ain’t that a hoot! Heck, this will be number seven! Maybe that’s what I’ll call him, since I already used up all the good names. ‘Hey, Stevie, quit beating up Seven! Seven, get out of the tree and come to dinner!’“ He laughed heartily at his own joke. This was clearly a man who enjoyed the trials of fatherhood. “Come visit us and you’ll see kids everywhere: on the roof, in the fridge, hanging from the ceiling. They get into everything. You just can’t keep track of them, so I figure, why bother.” He held out his calloused hand. “My name’s Bill.”

The younger man hesitated before accepting the handshake. “My name is William.”

The older man’s smile grew wider. “Ain’t that a hoot! We got the same name.”

“I prefer William.” William glanced over Bill’s shoulder at the door leading into the maternity ward.

Bill caught the anxious look. “Hey, why are you so nervous? Did the doctors tell you something? Did some test turn out wrong?”

William looked even more uncomfortable as he shook his head. “I’m just a little worried. It seems so much harder to raise kids now than when I was growing up.”

Bill nodded slowly. “Oh, yeah. I guess every generation says that, but this time, it’s true. My dad figured that once I was toilet trained and knew how to sign my name, his job was done, and I was good to go. He kicked me out of the house two weeks after I got my first pay stub.” Bill thought for a few moments, his calloused hand rubbing his rough cheek. “That isn’t the way I did it with my kids. The world has changed. Life is a lot more complicated and kids need more preparation before they can go out and be on their own. It seems like you need a degree in computer programming just to dial the phone these days.” He scrutinized the younger man. “You work in computers?”

The young man nodded. “I design hardware.”

“Lucky you. I fix farm equipment. I’m glad for the work, but sometimes I wish, you know, I was doing something more modern.”

“You could always get retrained,” William suggested.   

The older man considered for a moment before shaking his head. “Nah. I’m old school. Kids today are built for computer stuff. They should start building cribs with built-in computers for the babies to use.”      

The younger man’s face changed, and he looked like he was about to cry. The older man put down his magazine and went to William’s side, encasing him in a bear hug. “What’s the problem?”

“I’m afraid. What if he’s…not…like us,” he hesitated, glancing around quickly to see who might overhear. “I don’t know if I can cope with that.” He hesitated. “Did you ever have a problem with a child coming out, you know, different?”

The older man was confused for a moment before understanding dawned on him. His belly laugh shocked the other, making him take two steps back. “Is that what’s bothering you? The first four came out like that and call me a liar if they aren’t doing better than the rest. They had a rough time in school. The other kids liked them fine but the teachers couldn’t cope with them. I told the teachers that if they couldn’t handle it, they could always come out and help me fix tractors. My two oldest barely made it through high school. College was out of the question. That was a rough pill to swallow because everyone told them they need some kind of degree for any job that doesn’t involve flipping hamburgers. I guess they took that to heart so after high school, each opened his own business. My oldest went into computers. Turns out he didn’t need the degree. It really did come naturally. The other one owns a burger joint. He works hard but makes a real nice living.” He tightened his bear hug, crinkling the young man’s suit. “Do yourself a favor, go in and count ten little fingers and ten little toes, and then hug your wife.”

A stern looking nurse stepped into the waiting room. “Mr. Wright? Congratulations! It’s a boy.”

William’s smile struggled to rise to the occasion but his eyes couldn’t lie. “Is he…?” Try as he might, he couldn’t bear to give words to his worst fear.

The nurse faced this scenario dozens of times a day but preferred to act as if she didn’t understand. “The mother and baby are healthy. You can go in and see for yourself.”

He followed her into the inner sanctum of the maternity ward. His wife was sitting up in bed, sweaty and pale, a precious smile on her lips as she gazed with rapt joy at the bundle in her arms. The baby was asleep, swaddled in a blanket with eyes closed.

His wife looked up. “William, come look. He’s beautiful, the most perfect little baby I’ve ever seen.”

He approached cautiously, looking at the baby’s face while trying to get a glimpse of the more important details. “Who does he look like?”

Fussing over the baby, she didn’t even glance at her husband and missed his cue. “He’s certainly a Wright. Look at that nose. No one in my family ever had a pointy little nose like that. We all have great big shnozzers.”

The father struggled for a moment, but his need for peace of mind overcame his better judgment. “Is he like us?”

His wife finally understood. She looked up, anger dawning on her face. “I can’t believe you. Look at him. He’s perfect, a little angel.”

The baby, sensing his mother’s mood, woke and began to cry, a mighty sound for such tiny lungs. He struggled and squirmed around in the blanket. The father watched carefully, seeing movement under the cloth that confirmed his fears. The mother cooed, bonding with her new baby, understanding his discomfort.

“It’s okay, little boy. I know, you just want to move around.” To her husband’s horror and shame, she peeled back part of the blanket and revealed what he had dreaded since finding out he was going to be a father. New skin, baby soft, was uncovered and accented by two little pointy shoulder blades. Attached to the shoulder blades were two wings, perfect in every detail, covered with a fine coat of fluffy feathers. The wings moved, not quite in unison, as the baby struggled to discover his new body and how it worked. The mother lifted him up in the air.

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