Khong Ke by Chris Drabick 

Chris Drabick toiled for years in retail management and as a rock critic, writing for the Cleveland Free Times, Under the Radar magazine and Pitchfork, among others. Then he remembered he wanted to write books when he grew up. He is a 2013 graduate of the NEOMFA, and his short stories have appeared in Prick of the Spindle Volume 3 as well as Eunioa Review, and he recently published a Creative Non-Fiction essay in Stoneboat. He resides in a sort of large old house on a tree-lined street in west Akron with his wife Alison, their son Augie, three cats, and a large vinyl collection.

Dazed and half-asleep, I put my arm across the bed where Gordon should’ve been. I screamed, probably waking the Kowalskis. He was there.

Sort of.

***

The first day was the roughest. Every time I looked at Gordon, the miniaturized version of his Merchant Marines tattoo on his right bicep looked back at me. I had nothing with which to care for a baby. The Internet and next-day shipping took care of the bulk, but that still left twenty-four hours with no diapers, no formula, nothing with which to transport Gordon outside of the apartment or clothes to shield him from the winter winds. I turned the heat way up and cried a lot. Gordon echoed. I tried to slowly pour skim milk down his throat, but he spit most of it out. I feared he might dehydrate. I was afraid to look in his eyes.

***

I missed a few days of work. I claimed diarrhea when I spoke to my boss, and she didn’t question it. That’s the brilliance of the diarrhea excuse; no one expects someone to admit the runs if it isn’t true. The shipments arrived early in the afternoon, and I spent a day getting Gordon clothed, fed and washed. I was surprised at how quickly I learned most of it. By the third day, I’d secured day care, but still hadn’t looked in his eyes.

***

I didn’t really have anyone to talk to about what was happening, so I confided in Sandra, my co-worker.

“Are you gonna, you know, have sex with him?”

I gave her a sideways glance. “There are a million other logistical problems to consider.” Among these were explaining his absence to his family, friends, and law firm. He had no birth certificate other than the one that aged him forty-three. Also, there was the fact that he couldn’t speak.

Sandra took my hand. “I didn’t mean to go there. That was stupid. Of course there’s lots more to worry about.”

I shook my head. “It’s okay. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t wondering about that, too.”

“How do you think this happened?”

I shrugged my shoulders. But I had a pretty good idea.

***

His name was Dr. Lu’u. His office was in Mott Haven, where I’d never been apart from soon after moving to town and getting lost trying to see a Yankees game. I hadn’t been on the 6 in at least a decade.

I was desperate. We’d been trying to get pregnant for over three years. We’d run through every other expensive and invasive option that we could think of. Gordon did his best to remain positive, but as he was lukewarm about having a child to begin with, his resolve was waning. He didn’t even accompany me to my last unsuccessful visit with a conventional specialist, the one that brought me to Dr. Lu’u.

He looked like a Vietnamese Charlie Chan. I realize that sounds offensive, and I wish there was some other way I could describe him.

“You’re here for fertility?” Unexpectedly, his voice had a Midwestern lilt, his “you’re” and “for” rhyming with her. “Where are you from?”

“I was born in a village called Kang Sao Dau, but my parents moved to Muncie when I was an infant.”

“Indiana?”

He nodded but didn’t smile.

“Ball State.”

He nodded again. “David Letterman’s alma mater.” He sighed.

“Can you lay back on the table, please?”

He didn’t ask me to undress. He looked me up and down, waved his hands over my inhospitable womb, and chanted a few words in what I assumed were his parents’ native tongue but I thought it sounded more like Ukrainian for whatever reason.

He kept his hands in front of me, not touching my Tory Burch dress, waving them a little, right over left. He nodded slowly and blinked. “That’s all.” I was confused. “What do you mean, that’s all? You didn’t do anything.”

“You have the power. That’s what you came for, right? Don’t be so cynical. That’s all. You’re done.”

Up to that point, I’d been poked and prodded, scraped and speculumed, but I still wasn’t pregnant. If anything, I should’ve been skeptical about conventional approaches. Maybe Charlie Chan was on to something.

I hopped off the table. I felt lightheaded. “Thanks, I guess.”

“Don’t mention it. Really. Don’t mention it. The girl out front will take your payment.”

“David Letterman is a creep, you know.”

Dr. Lu’u nodded. “Muncie does strange things to people.”

***

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