The day Maggie told me she was pregnant was a bittersweet miracle. Part of me guessed she would never conceive because I couldn’t love her. I was honest at least, and she took it, just like she took everything else I handed her. She didn’t care because I was hers and I wasn’t going anywhere. Dunno how I’d go anywhere with empty shelves in my chest. My ability to seek love was shattered. My fingers were broken from squeezing them in fists at night while I slept. She brushed the hair from my forehead when I woke up screaming Toni’s name.
I was going to be a father. This time for real. A father with a woman who was their mother. I was pretty excited.
It wasn’t until that point that I really felt the sting of my betrayal of Toni. She’d moved on, but so had I, almost. I didn’t even know if she knew what I’d done.
When she left, I think I’d promised her I’d wait for her. I meant it just as much then as I did now, but how long is a man supposed to wait for something like that?
I’d been volunteering at the ranger service down in the swamp forests all summer before then. The rest of the gang was cracking down into their grown up lives, and I figured I might as well learn something while I was down there.
After Maggie broke the news to me, I hopped into the pickup and headed out of the city. I grabbed my pole before I left because I was gonna need some thinking time after I asked what I was planning on askin’.
There was a ranger shack on the far east side of Boyd Hill, and I kicked up dust plumes in the road behind me as I breezed on in. I walked in and told the fella at the desk the news and asked if I couldn’t be put on the payroll because, “Son, I’m fixin to be a daddy here soon.”
He patted me on the back in congratulations and said, “You’ll be here tomorrow morning, then?”
I snapped my fingers and said, “Yessir,” smiled, and headed back out the door. A boardwalk was laid out from the shack all the way out to the Lake, though it was a good mile or so walk. I decided I’d take the long way, grabbed my pole from the back of the truck, and headed back to the picnic table.