The pregnant man screamed and flailed as they rushed him through the maternity ward into the O.R.

Bill Kressler looked up from his magazine. He glanced around the waiting room to see if anyone else had seen what he just saw. The expressions on the faces ranged from shock to confusion. All except one: a strange man sitting across from him. The man was dressed in a long, grey raincoat and matching hat. A shiny black box sat on his lap. His stare was wide-eyed and unblinking. A disarming smile occupied his lips. "Expectant father," he said quite unexpectedly.

Bill couldn't tell if it was a question or an observation. "Yes," Bill offered, still disturbed by the screaming man hurtling down the hallway.

The strange man nodded, his face as inanimate as a department store mannequin.

Across the waiting room, a heavy-set woman cried out, "My God." She pointed to the television set mounted in the corner by the ceiling. "Can somebody turn that up?" A teenage boy nearest the set reluctantly stood, reached up and increased the volume. On the television, a reporter stood outside a hospital Emergency Room entrance. The words News Bulletin scrolled in bold red letters along the bottom of the screen.

"Hospitals in Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Boston are all reporting similar cases. There are now five confirmed births and two related deaths as a result of these male pregnancies. While the medical community remains baffled, the CDC has stepped in to investigate. We will stay with this story as it develops throughout the day..."

"Mr. Kressler?"

Bill turned. A nurse stood in the waiting room doorway.

"Congratulations. You have a baby girl. You can see your wife now."

Bill stood, his mind numb from all the events occurring around him. The strange man also stood; he partially blocked Bill's path to the door. He held the black box in his pale hands, the lid now open; inside it was a row of cigars. "Congratulations," the man said, eyeing Bill from beneath the brim of his hat.

"Uh…thanks," said Bill, grabbing one of the cigars. It felt soft and chalky in his grip. He stuffed it in his shirt pocket.

Bill brushed past the man and stepped out into the hallway to join the nurse...and was almost hit by another gurney speeding by. On the gurney a man lay beneath a bed sheet writhing in obvious pain, his belly distended. The orderly continued on, pushing the gurney through the double doors into the O.R.

Bill stood in the hallway dumbfounded. He turned to look at the strange man in the waiting room. The man stared back at him, rocking gently in his seat, his fingers tapping the surface of the black box on his lap. Bill was suddenly struck with a nightmarish realization. He reached into his shirt pocket for the cigar, only to find lint. A momentary tightness gripped his chest, followed by a sudden forgetfulness.

"Mr. Kressler…you're wife?"

The nurse stood before him, her smile strained.

Bill shook his head. He then remembered he was in the maternity ward of the hospital. His wife had just given birth to a baby girl. He followed the nurse as she led the way, mistaking the feeling in his stomach for joy.

"Have a Cigar"

Copyright: © 2011 Kurt Newton


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