Talia grinned like an idiot at perfection, and perfection smiled right back.
She stroked her son’s cheek. He was warm and a little slimy yet, but a beautiful baby. His clear blue eyes searched towards Talia’s face.
Nearby, Josh hovered. “Is it all right that he’s lying there like that? Is he supposed to do that?”
The doctor smiled through his gray beard. “Don’t worry, Mr. Harris. Your son is in fine health.”
“What about the tests?”
“They can wait five minutes while he gets acquainted with your wife. You should hold him, too, while he’s fully awake.”
Josh took a step back, putting his hands behind his back, folding them in front, and then swinging them behind again. “But, he’s normal, even with all the options we took?”
“Yes, Mr. Harris. You can relax. Your child is healthy and strong. We’ll see if your options took hold, but at the least, yes. The child is healthy. Though the nurse is waiting with your birth registration. Does the baby have a name?”
Josh looked at Talia, who nodded. He blurted, “Arthur. His name is Arthur.”
– – – – –
“What do you mean, he latched perfectly on the first try?” Beth ticked off fingers as she made her list. “He sleeps through the night, he only poops when your husband is around, and he latched perfectly the first time?”
“And every time since,” Talia added, a twinkle in her eye.
“You know that just means your next kid is going to be hell.” Beth took her food from the microwave and sat at the breakroom table. “I can’t believe any of this. You’re just trying to get the other moms jealous.”
“Well, maybe a little.” Talia scraped the inside of the yogurt cup. “I just wish getting rid of his weight was as easy as everything else about Arthur.”
Beth pointed with her fork. “Now that is something I can support. At least something doesn’t go right with you.”
“I’m not perfect. He is.”
“Every mom thinks that, even if they don’t say it.” Beth took a bite of her stroganoff and paused. “Wait. You got the options, didn’t you? Woman, you know how dangerous that is!”
Before Talia could respond, Colin bustled into the room. “Ladies. Hey, welcome back, Tal. How’s the kid?”
Talia seized the distraction and didn’t let go until she fled back to work. Some people just didn’t understand. Her child was perfect. He had to be.
– – – – –
Josh raised the spoon full of green goop to Arthur’s mouth. The baby opened his mouth, accepted the bowl of the spoon, and sucked the food off. Not a drip spilled on to the bib.
“Well, that makes peas, broccoli, spinach, turkey, beef, and…” Josh paused trying to remember. “Peaches! You like peaches, too. Is there anything you won’t eat?”
Arthur wrinkled his nose at his father’s question and reached out toward the jar.
“All right, all right, have some more!” Once more, not a drop spilled. When the meal was done, Josh didn’t even have to wipe of Arthur’s face. He was, all in all, the cleanest child Josh had ever seen in his eleven years teaching preschool. “Your daddy is very proud of you, Arthur.” Josh picked the child up and set the boy in his lap. “I know that a lot of this is the options we took, but, well, I’m pretty sure you really are as perfect as your mommy says you are. Look at you!”
Arthur smiled a toothless grin.
Josh relaxed. There was nothing wrong. The options had taken. Their child was perfect. They’d never have to worry about his health or misbehavior. They’d never experience anxiety over disobedience or sickness. No, Arthur was perfect. No doubt about it.
– – – – –
“Hurry. It’s Arthur.”
That’s all Talia would say. He could hear screaming in the background, but couldn’t see anything. Why wasn’t she going to the hospital if it was that serious? Why did she insist that he come home and not meet her at the doctors?
Josh checked the speedometer again. Twenty-five over.
They never showed this part in movies. The waiting. They always cut away.
Should he call someone? No. What would he say? He didn’t know what was going on. Why didn’t Talia tell him what was happening? She was his wife; she should answer him when he asked questions!
No, it’s not her fault. She’s stressed and not rational. How often had they ever heard Arthur cry? She was probably beside herself in fear. And who could blame her?
No, he shouldn’t take out his anger – no, his fear – on her.
Still too long until home. Too long.
– – – – –
Red everywhere. Chunky thick glops of it, all over the floor. Arthur lay in the middle of it, sobbing. Broken glass just over there – he wasn’t in the middle of it, thankfully. It smelled too sweet in the house.
Talia sobbed with him. Her perfect baby! What was wrong? What had happened to him? Why was he doing this?
The front door banged as Josh dashed into the house. He took in the sight and swore. “Talia, call emergency!”
He sprinted to the wall panel. “Then I’ll do it!”
“No. I don’t think the doctors can do anything for him.”
“But look at the blood!”
“It’s not blood.”
Josh stopped himself before tapping the emergency icon. He turned to his wife’s damp face. “What?”
“It’s his cherries. He knocked the jar out of my hand. They spilled all over. And then he started crying and kicking and screaming. He wouldn’t tell me what he wanted. He just screamed at me and he wouldn’t stop. What’s wrong with our baby?” Talia wailed. “What’s wrong with our baby?”
– – – – –
The doctor nodded. “Yes. Just a normal tantrum, like any small boy would have.”
Talia shook her head. “I don’t understand. He’s not supposed to do that.”
A warm chuckle answered her. “Of course not. Every little child is perfect, aren’t they? It’s always a shock for parents when they discover that the kids are just as human, just as selfish, as they are.”
Josh took Talia’s hand and squeezed it. “But what about the options? That’s supposed to eliminate things like this.”
The doc paced to the wall panel and tapped on the screen. “The genetic options you decided to exercise eliminate several different aspects of the child’s makeup generally seen as negative. You opened up his palette so he will be more accepting to foods, you increased his learning grade so he could communicate faster and eliminate the cause of many early tantrums. Let’s see here… oh, yes. You didn’t eliminate his humanity. Sorry, he’s as stubborn and selfish as you are.”
Josh tried to grasp the doctor’s words. “You mean… you can’t fix him? He’s going to keep having these, um, tantrums?”
Talia turned to Josh and clung to him. “My baby! My perfect baby!”
– – – – –
Twenty-four hundred years earlier, a mother grinned like an idiot at perfection, and perfection smiled right back. Except this time, perfection was not in the eye of the mother. Perfection was in the eye of God. Mary laid her child in a crib that was as far from state-of-the-art as possible, but it didn’t matter.
Genetic modification will never fix humanity’s sin. Therapies might eliminate certain aspects, certain symptoms, but the solution is far away from man’s grasp.
Ah, but the one child who was perfect… if only he would share what was his. If only he would trade with the rest of us and give us his perfection.
What’s that? He did?
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21