Wonder 51

5101

Since I’ve been working at the clinic, I’ve noticed that we get a bunch of regulars. Jeanette is one of them.

I’m not sure if she’s actually sick each time she comes, but I can’t figure out why else she would stop by. Surely, she has other things to do on a beautiful morning.

“Your heartbeat is regular,” I told her. “Your lungs sound clear. Your eyes are bright. Your complexion is good. I can’t find anything wrong with you.”

“Maybe I should stop in tomorrow on my lunch break,” she said. “Just in case any new symptoms develop. Are you working tomorrow?”

In the break room at lunch, I told my supervisor about her frequent visits.

“Benefit of the job,” he said, with a chuckle.

I have no idea what he was talking about.

5102

Our research is going well. I logged in a few test results after lunch.

My boss was giving Brantley, the research project manager, a hard time.

“The grant deadline is in two weeks!” he shouted. “Have you even started the application?”

“I thought we agreed at our last staff meeting that you’d be handling the application,” Brantley said.

5103

I felt relieved when my lab duties were over and I could return to the examining rooms where we talk in quiet voices.

A boy I’d treated a few weeks back was there.

“How’re you feeling, spud?” I asked him.

5104

He had a sore throat and a slight fever.

“You’ve just got a virus,” I said. “We’ve got a good cure for that.”

5105

“Will it hurt?” he asked.

“Not at all!” I replied. “You’ll feel great within a few hours, and you’ll be running around and driving your mom nuts.”

“I haven’t got a mom,” he replied.

5106

“You don’t?” I asked.

“Naw,” he said. “I’m a morphin.”

“An orphan?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Who do you live with?” I asked.

“The other morphins at the Morphin Ridge.”

I gave him a child’s dose of remedy.

5107

While he rested, I went out front to talk with the social worker who’d brought him in. I’d wanted to let her know that the boy would be just fine and to tell her that she could bring in any of the kids at the first sign of cold or flu. We ended up talking for nearly half an hour about Windenburg Kids’ Home and the children who lived there. Many were adopted fairly quickly, she explained. In fact, the boy I’d treated was scheduled to be moving in with a family just as soon as the final paperwork cleared. But there were some who never found homes.

Riding the ferry back, I started thinking about my house on the island. I had an extra room downstairs. I’d enjoyed living alone, but was that really what I wanted for all of my life? If there was someone out there who needed a home, and if I had extra room to spare…

I spent the rest of the ferry ride daydreaming.

I got a call that evening from my friend the waitress at the diner. She asked if I wanted to meet her at the bar.

“Bear-suits?” I asked.

She laughed. “No, it’s an extra-terrestrial conference,” she replied. “Interested?”

I wasn’t really, but I thought it would be fun to spend an evening with her, so I agreed to meet her there.

“Charlie,” she said when she saw me.

“Are you feeling OK?” I asked. “Your voice sounds kind of husky. You’re not coming down with something, are you?”

She laughed. “Never better,” she said.

5108

We enjoyed a few drinks and a long conversation. I told her I’d just begun to think about adopting.

“Adopting?” she asked. “You mean, you’d be a single parent?”

I told her how I’d been raised by a single mom and my aunt and how my experience of family stemmed from the discovery minha mãe had made that it was love that made a family, not necessarily a mom and a dad bound by marriage.

My friend said something about an early shift and left abruptly. I decided to walk around to enjoy the warm night. I wanted to turn over my idea of adopting a child so I could look at it from all sides.

I ran into minha mãe.

“Man, this is perfect timing!” I told her. “You’re exactly the person I want to talk about this with!”

5109

I explained my idea.

“There are so many kids that need homes,” I said. “I know that I can’t take them all, but even if I just take one, I’d make a difference, right?”

“Charlie,” she said, “I’ve always known you would be an amazing father. And I’ve also always had a hunch that you wouldn’t become one in the traditional way.”

5110

“Really, Mãe?” I asked. “But what do you mean?”

“Charlie,” she said, “think about it. Have you ever been interested in a girl, I mean in any way other than as a friend?”

“Well, no,” I admitted. “But I’m not really interested in guys that way, either.”

“I know,” said Mãe. “And that’s fine. You’ve always been you. You love everyone, and everyone loves you, just maybe not in the flowers-and-candlelight kind of way. Or even in the quickie-in-the-closet type of way. I think it’s a beautiful thing, Charlie, your love of people. You will make a good father, and I think adoption is the perfect way for you to become one.”

5111

“Thanks, Mãe,” I said. “It’s pretty sudden, but it’s the right decision, isn’t it? ”

She wrapped me in a big hug. “It is so much the right decision.”

5112

“Now just get busy filling out the paperwork,” she said. “I hear the process can take a really long time, and I want to get to have a chance to meet my grandkid before it’s too late.”

I looked at her hard.

“Is there something you’re not telling me?” I asked.

“No, spud,” she replied. “Just being realistic.”

5113

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