Written by JasonKorolenko
Fog Rolls Out . . . And In
Jennifer called the following day while Roger was in the shower. She left a message thanking him for lunch and saying she couldn't wait to do it again.
Roger, toweling his hair dry, played the message back, at first guilty and secretive when he heard Jennifer's voice. He shot a glance toward the bedroom, made sure Dora was out of hearing range, then cursed himself.
"She's a fucking doll," he said, with growing confidence, though not quite loud enough for Dora to hear.
He listened to the message twice, closing his eyes and thinking of Jennifer's wide smile, her completely unself-conscious laugh that sometimes snorted and sometimes honked. He felt a stirring in his soul that he'd never felt with Dora, and thought maybe it was love.
While waiting for her to call again, Roger went to the attic and dug out his old school yearbooks. He found Jennifer in three different editions, looked up all her pictures (he was surprised - and delighted - to see she'd been a cheerleader), then cut them out and pinned them to a bulletin board. He brought the collage into the garage in case Dora stumbled upon it, then, laughing at his idiocy, brought it inside.
Jennifer rang again in the early evening. They spoke briefly, made plans for breakfast on Saturday, and Roger hung up the phone to see Dora sitting on the floor, propped up in the bedroom doorway, the bulletin board in her lap.
Again, she did not look pleased.
"Honey, I can explain." Damage control. "She's not real. Just someone I knew a long time ago."
Dora's belly expanded like a water balloon being filled, and a pained expression came to her face. Roger ran to her, tossed the board aside.
"Is it now? Is it coming?" He hadn't prepared, had no clue how to deliver a baby. He'd read a few articles, watched a couple of videos, but what good would any of that do? Roger was pretty sure this would entail high-risk complications.
Practicing some deep breathing exercises (though Dora didn't seem to be breathing at all), he calmed and the contractions passed. Still, Dora seemed put off by her husband's behavior, and he spent the night on the couch, surprisingly unbothered by dreams of rubber wives and children that should not have been.