Harvey couldn’t wait to get home. Georgie, his wife, had called not fifteen minutes ago and said the baby was coming. But he was stuck in the most important sales meeting of the year, and it was nowhere near over.
“Don’t worry, Harvey,” Georgie had said. “The first baby takes a long time to come, anyway. You won’t miss a thing.”
“What if something goes wrong? What if the midwife has to take you to the hospital? I should be there to help. And I want to see our baby born.”
“I swear nothing will go wrong. Just finish your meeting, honey. Gotta go now. Contraction.”
So Harvey sat squirming in his meeting, unable to think of anything but Georgie in labor and his child being born. Would it be a boy or a girl? Georgie was old-fashioned, and wanted the gender to be a surprise. The nursery was yellow and green, appropriate for either.
Harvey snuck out his wallet and looked at the sonogram pictures. Georgie hadn’t allowed him to go to her checkups at the doctor, though he offered to go every time. But she brought him the pictures of each stage of the baby’s development, and he was delighted to have them.
Truthfully, all he could see in the sonograms was an indeterminate blob. Was the big round thing the head? And babies only have four appendages, two arms and two legs, right? He wondered if the fifth one, as long as the baby’s leg, would drop off after a week like the umbilical cord. Maybe all babies were like that.
Just as the meeting came to its excruciating end, Georgie called again.
“It’s a boy!” she said. Harvey’s spirits took a deep dive.
“You mean it’s over already? I knew I should have come home. I really wanted to see him being born. Did you say we have a boy?”
Georgie laughed and said, “We have a son. Hurry home now and meet him.”
He already had his coat on and car keys in hand.
“On my way. What does he look like? Does he have a lot of hair? Ten fingers, ten toes? Does he still have a tail?”
Silence on the other end for a long moment.
“Why would you say our baby has a tail?” Georgie didn’t sound too pleased.
“I was looking at the sonograms,” he explained. “Those things are pretty blurry. I can’t make heads or tails of- I mean, I can’t figure out what’s what.”
“Would it be a big deal if he had a tail?” Her tone was downright chilly now. “Would you love him any less?”
“No, of course I wouldn’t-”
“Will you be home soon?”
“I’m at the car now. I’ll drive fast.”
“Good. Then you can inspect him and make sure he meets your standards. I didn’t know you were so picky.”
She hung up. Harvey stared, bewildered, at his phone. What did he say to upset her? He’d heard women were emotional when they’d just given birth. He’d have to watch what he said to her for a while.
He kept his word and drove as fast as traffic would allow, and stopped at the corner of their street to pick up some big pink and white lilies. They were Georgie’s favorite. He hoped they’d make up for whatever he’d said to make her so mad.
He raced upstairs. Georgie was lying down, cradling the baby at her side. The midwife hovered close by. Harvey barely spared her a glance, but he wondered if all midwives wore black robes like she did. Maybe it was a uniform of some kind.
Georgie pouted until she saw the lilies, and then she smiled. He sat down carefully on the bed and kissed her.
“Hi, honey,” she said. “Meet your son.”
This was the moment. Harvey picked the baby up and held him close.
“Hey, little fella,” he said, grinning like a fool. What a sweet little scrunched up face he had, and look at that wee shiny nose.
“He’s really red,” Harvey blurted, and then, alarmed, “But I’m sure it’s because he just came out. He’s very handsome.”
He opened the blanket to get a proper look at his son. Yes, there were the ten fingers and ten toes. His strong little legs kicked, and Harvey laughed.
Harvey was about to wrap him up again when he felt something move. Georgie held out her arms, and the midwife took a step closer.
“Time to give him back now,” Georgie said. “I miss him already.”
“Just a sec.”
Harvey lifted the baby’s legs and looked under him. He gasped.
The child really did have a tail. It was as long as those strong little legs, bright red and wiggling.
Harvey closed the blanket. The baby howled, annoyed at being handled so much. Were those teeth in his mouth? No, not teeth. They were sharp, tiny fangs.
He looked up at Georgie helplessly.
“He’s beautiful,” he said, as gently as he could. “But Georgie, he’s…”
The midwife swooped in. She took the baby and gave him back to Georgie.
“Listen to that voice,” she said over the baby’s wail. “This one’s going to be a little devil. You’ll have your hands full when he’s older.”
Georgie laughed and looked at Harvey.
“I’ve been thinking of names, honey. I like Seth. What do you think?”
“Beelzebub,” he said. “It fits him. We could call him Bill for short.”
For a second, Georgie stared at him, and then she and the midwife laughed. Georgie leaned up and kissed him.
“Oh, Harvey, you do love our baby! I was so worried you wouldn’t understand!”
Harvey put his arms around his wife and son and sighed.
This might not be the son he expected, but it didn’t matter. This was his little boy, and when the shock wore off, he knew he’d be the proudest daddy in the world.