Fur BallChase The Moon Anthology 2014
All we can figure is that Arthur and Elaine got tired of listening to all of the talk about other people's babies and decided to do something about it. Our crowd, numbering a dozen couples or so, all in our mid-twenties to early thirties already had kids—mostly infants and toddlers while a few of the wives were in various stages of pregnancy.
My wife, Marti and I were having our annual Memorial Day picnic at our house and all had arrived except for Arthur and Elaine. Finally, an hour late, Elaine walked into our back yard with the proudest bust-my-buttons look on her face and said her hellos and told us that Arthur would be along presently. “He’s getting Baby Jeffrey out of the car,” she told us.
The women surrounded her, questions flying; When did you adopt? Where did go to get the baby? And then along came Arthur pushing a baby carriage and we surged to greet him and see Baby Jeffrey.
Arthur held out his hand, palm up to stop the onslaught and proceeded to take Baby Jeffrey from the carriage. He was swathed in a yellow blanket and Elaine walked to Arthur’s side and the three of them came towards us. Arthur held the baby gingerly.
“I’m sorry we’re late,” Arthur said. “We didn’t want to wake Baby Jeffrey up from his nap.”
Some looked at each other with a ‘what do they know’ look and others chuckled sympathetically. Arthur began to unwind the blanket while Elaine stood next to him appearing ready to burst. He handed Jeffery to Elaine who said, “Isn’t he beautiful? Isn’t he just beautiful?”
The rumblings of laughter began—some of it nervous laughter and then there were the outright guffaws. Arthur and Elaine looked at each other with hurt and bewilderment. Arthur took Baby Jeffrey, a cuddly brown teddy bear, back from Elaine and laid him back into the carriage, draped the blanket over him and looked up. “I’m starving. Let’s eat,” he said.
Over to the Bar-b-q grill we went and piled food on plates and everyone ate, not knowing if Arthur and Elaine were putting us on or if they both lost it at the same time. As usual, the guys drifted to the other guys and the wives sat together. Every so often when one of the men would tell a story about his child, Arthur would chime in with a Jeffery story—not always interesting but a Jeffery store none-the-less.
The same thing happened with the women. When Marti went over to a quiet spot to breast feed our baby, Elaine followed and sat next to her holding baby Jeffery to her bared breast. Marti told me Elaine talked to her about breast pumps and apologized for not inviting the group to the bris but they decided to have a small family affair. Marti told her she understood. “Bris’ are getting so out of control.’
Arthur and Elaine had been unsuccessfully trying to have a child all the years we knew them. At first Arthur would joke about getting a call and having to leave work and run to the doctor’s office with a copy of Playboy. Anytime someone read an article about a new method, theory or cultures’ way of handling this issue Arthur or Elaine would be called. Their cause became our cause and even though they wanted a baby they never seemed to overly obsess about it.
Baby Jeffery became a part of all of our lives. Arthur and Elaine wouldn’t go out at night unless they had a babysitter and would periodically call throughout the evening to check that all was okay. It got to be bit much, they occasionally canceled plans at the last minute because Baby Jeffery had the sniffles or a babysitter canceled.
“It’s a fucking stuffed animal, Arthur!” I yelled one evening when he called and baled out of a poker game. “Baby Jeffery is a stuffed teddy bear!”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “But I’m surprised at your attitude, you being a father also.”
The invitation came for Baby Jeffery’s first birthday party. Marti asked me what I thought we should bring Baby Jeffrey as a gift. “A bond,” I said. “You’re always safe with a bond.”
We all brought our children and encouraged them to bring their favorite stuffed animals and except for singing Happy Birthday to the little fur ball it wasn’t a bad party. The children thought nothing at all was strange since they’d all given their animal’s parties at one time or another.
We began to see less and less of them and one day they told us they bought a home in the next town over. “With our growing family,” Elaine said. “Our starter ranch house is getting crowded what with all of Baby Jeffery’s toys and his baby furniture. You understand.” She said.
Arthur’s law practice flourished and Elaine had cut back to half time as a social worker so as to spend more time with the baby. There was always something going on that kept them too busy to get together and at a cocktail party we discussed that it had been a year or so since anyone had seen them. Many of us had made overtures and sent invites but to no avail. We were not invited to Baby Jeffery’s’ second birthday party and soon they were rarely a topic of discussion.
One day at work I got a call from Arthur. He wanted to meet for a drink after work and we set a time. He looked terrible. His hands were shaking and he’d started smoking and obviously drinking—something he rarely did before.
“Elaine divorced me this morning,” he told me.
“I’m really sorry to hear that, Arthur.”
“Worse yet, she got custody of Baby Jeffery and I only get supervised visitation twice a month.”
He ordered another round.
“What happened? You two were so close and it seemed that Baby Jeffery brought you even closer.”
“We met another couple right after we moved and spent most of our free time socializing with them. That’s why we never accepted any of the invites. This couple became our closest friends—closer than family and they had a little one very much like Baby Jeffery. We were introduced by one of Elaine’s social worker friends who thought we would bond with Betsy and Harold.”
“Obviously you did,” I said
“Too much,” Arthur said. “Their baby was a little girl, a panda, Baby Wanda, who was a few months older than Jeffery and we really hit it off. Than one day Betsy left Harold and Baby Wanda and they never heard from her again. For the next six months we consoled Harold and he practically lived with us—eating dinner together each night, watching TV together and then I found out that Harold and Elaine were having an affair. I spotted them downtown pushing their strollers and followed them. They went inside the Build-a-Bear store and I watched them looking at their options and laughing and then I saw them holding hands and kissing.”
“What a shame. Some thanks you got from Harold for all you did for him,” I said.
“That night they both told me over dinner that they had fallen in love and Elaine said she wanted her freedom to marry Harold. “We already made plans to adopt another baby,” she said.
“That night I snatched Baby Jeffery and drove off and hid out for a few weeks. Elaine hired a private detective and tracked me down from my credit card receipts. I had to take an anger management course and see a shrink twice a week. Elaine got sole custody.”
Occasionally Arthur returned to our group. He got himself an apartment and a sports car. He was invited to our functions and sometimes came. The day before our Memorial Day picnic he called and asked Marti if he could bring a date.
“Well, what’s the scoop, Arthur?” Marti asked.
“She’s someone I met on JDate a while back and we’ve been seeing each other for a couple of months now and we’ll be bringing her two year old twins with us.”
‘Can’t wait,” Marti said.
About an hour after the picnic started a mini-van pulled up by the curb and Arthur and an attractive brunette got out and opened the street side door. The two of them pushed the double stroller up the driveway. The sun tops were down so no one had a decent glance at these two year old twins that were about to enter our lives.
Arthur stopped the stroller half way up the driveway, put on the breaks and they walked up hand in hand. “I’d like you to meet my fiancée, Leah. Baby Aaron and Baby Max are asleep and will be fine for now. You’ll meet them when they wake in about a half hour. We’re starving,” Arthur said. “How about some hot dogs?”