Green Hills Literary Lantern

 

 

 

 

 

Fatherhood

 

In the bathroom in the back of The Home Depot above the middle urinal someone

    scrawled “The joke is in your hands.”

 

My wife’s in the parking lot waiting in the car with the crown molding we just bought

    dipping out the front window.

The car’s new. It has sixteen airbags and four doors. Perfect for a family.

The crown molding must be painted and installed by the end of this month when the baby

    is due.

The room’s been painted “touch of pink.” Not pink.

 

We’ve been married four years and our friends would pepper our dinner conversation

    with “When you gonna hava baby? When you gonna hava baby?” and when we

    finally announced these same friends laughed like used car salesmen when asked

    for a warranty.

It was as though they invited me out on the lake on their boat and cemented my feet while

    I slept on the deck and now they were pushing me to swim.

 

It’s not that I’m not happy about it.

It’s just that there’s a whole industry lining my hallway: a Peg-Perego car seat, a Pack &

    Play, a Prima Pappa high chair, a Swing n’Bounce cradle, a Snap-n-Go stroller.

 

It’s just that my wife’s put on fifty pounds and she’s still working.

None of her clothes fit. Her feet swell in her shoes.

We haven’t even discussed what Carol Burnett said to the man who told her he’d heard

    birth was like pushing a watermelon through your nostril. “Try your tear duct.”

 

It’s just that when I wake in the night my wife is awake, perched on her pillows like a

    catcher awaiting the next pitch.

My friends told me it’d be like this. I feel guilty even when asleep.

 

It’s just that we must decide on a college fund, a day care, a public school system.

My friends say my city has the best schools in Florida, but Florida has the forty-eighth

    ranked school system in the union.

 

OK. I admit it. My father was right about everything.

 

How will I keep this child alive?

Will her daily attire include helmet and life-preserver?

Will I let her watch Disney movies with their women either villains or naives? 

Will I encourage her to play basketball rather than shop for handbags?

Will I force her to read 1984 when she’s three?

Will I really give her money for a prom dress?

Will I let boys call the house or will I endorse lesbianism?

Will I introduce her to the society of men that will lock her out or not pay her enough

    when she gets my age?

Am I really the type of man to be the first in any girl’s life?

 

“The joke is in your hands” it reads over the middle stall in The Home Dept bathroom.

I flush with my elbow and take out my pen.

 

“Sure. But it’s a big one.”

 

 

 

 

Brad Johnson is an associate professor at Palm Beach Community College, FL, and has two chapbooks Void Where Prohibited and The Happiness Theory available at puddinghouse.com. Work of his has recently been accepted by Flyway, The Madison Review, The Modern Review, New Plains Review, New York Quarterly, The Oklahoma Review, and Willow Springs, among others. Poems of his have been nominated for Best of the Net and for a Pushcart Prize. He currently serves as Poetry Editor of Magnolia: A Florida Journal of Literary and Fine Arts (www.magnoliafloridajournal.com).