Birth -- A short story

Christopher C. Taylor -- Written: 5/18/89 -- Edited: 5/19/89

Jonathan Sumner followed the green line round and round the desk. It was nearly 2:00 in the morning. He was wearing a suit coat. Jonathan did not usually wear his suit coat at 2:00 in the morning. Then again, He usually wasn't following a green line round and round a desk. Jonathan was faced with a situation totally foreign to him. Although he had been through this once before, he could not remember it at all. He would not even have known he had experienced this before, if it wasn't for Jonathan's mother. She was a kind lady. She baked apple pie for Jonathan and his sister at least once a week and sometimes twice a week. She was the one who had told him of what he faced that night. As Jonathan looked back on his childhood he could taste the apples with just a touch of cinnamon. He could feel the warm odor penetrating his nostrils. Filling them to the point of delirium. Jonathan was quite small and the pie quite rich. This combination left Jonathan gasping for air. Never in Jonathan's thirty-two years could he ever remember fumes quite so strong. Strong enough to choke him. Then he remembered the summer he worked for a co-op spraying ammonia. This thought, with all its unpleasantness, brought him back to reality. He found himself looking at himself. He turned suddenly. He looked all around. He was everywhere. Just then the elevator came to a sudden stop and the doors opened. An elderly lady in a wheelchair and a nurse pushing it entered. The woman in the wheelchair was asleep so the nurse and Jonathan exchange smiles but no words. Jonathan, still a little disoriented exited the elevator and began following the yellow and red lines that extended from the elevator. He came to a point at which the two lines separated. He followed the red line which led down a long dark hallway with large glass pains along one side. As he passed, he peered in the glass windows. What he saw through the darkness that penetrated the large room as well as the hall reminded him of his purpose in being there. He experienced both pain and joy at the same time, for the first time in his life. He liked the feeling. As he looked in the nearly dark room he was reminded of the summer he spent working for the co-op. He saw rows and rows of heat lamps. These were just like the heat lamps he remember in the pig barns, yet there was something special about these heat lamps. These had fancy shades on them. Not as exquisite as those found on chandeliers, yet a simple stainless steel bowl shape which seemed to captivate him for reasons even he didn't understand. Although all these things were interesting to him in there own little way, Jonathan was most struck by the small objects under the heat lamps. There were dozens of these bundles, all in neat little rows. These babies brought to him a sense of urgency for his purpose there. He tore himself away from the room which seemed to be so much a part of him even though he had never entered it. He followed the dark gray, almost black, line back down the dark hallway. As he walked towards the light the gray line he was walking on became red. This jogged his memory and he remembered how he had gotten there. He walked faster until he caught up with the yellow line and followed them both to the elevator. He pressed both the up and down arrows but only the down arrow lit. He wondered to himself as he waited whether the light in the up arrow was burnt out or whether the button itself didn't work or whether he pushed it at all. But none of these things mattered to him for he wanted to go down, not up. Just then he heard a spoon hit one of those stainless steel heat lamp covers and the down arrow light went out. The doors opened and he enter the empty cavity with mirrors on every wall. He pressed the three and the doors closed revealing even more mirrors. Jonathan looked up and saw above him a ceiling covered by a large mirror. Something was wrong he thought. There was plenty of light in the elevator yet there were no lights. This thought puzzled him, but the sound of the elevator doors opening distracted him and he forgot about the lack of lights. He was met by a green line which he followed back until he came to the desk he had circled count less times earlier that night. He looked up from the hideous green line his eyes had been following. A glow of determination radiated from the deep black of his pupils. As he approached the desk he was met by the glare of a woman. This was no ordinary woman. Jonathan couldn't help but be reminded of the woman he saw on the nightly news just a week earlier. The woman who had been living by herself in a cave for thirty- five years up in the hills northeast of the city. He did his best to suppress these thoughts but her black horn-rimmed glasses and pale white skin hung in his mind like the aftertaste of diet pop on a hot summer day. From her glasses hung a long chain. A chain similar to those used by athletes to keep their glasses from falling off, yet much longer. It was made of stainless steel balls linked with small pieces of paperclips. A chain like those found in Jonathan's bank connecting the pens to the table. He focused on her face. Her pearl white skin was wrinkled as if she was forced to sleep with her mouth full of marshmallows until she was twenty-four years old. He felt very uneasy, but after what he'd been through in the past ten hours he was determined to go through with it. As he neared the desk he felt his left leg buckle under him but fortunately he was close enough to reach the desk. With all the grace he could muster, he grabbed the desk, and held himself up. However, he didn't have much grace to muster. The lady be hind the desk could not help but notice his uneasiness and Jonathan knew this. Even through all this he managed to see the lady's name engraved on the name tag she wore. Jonathan saw his opportunity to make her feel as uneasy as he did and he jumped at it. Not literally of course, but in the figurative sense. He caught his breath and said in a, what seemed to him, somewhat confident voice, "Hi, Irma." Just as he had planned, this made her very uneasy. It worked even better than he had ever dreamed it could. She was torn for she knew not his name but thought she should because he knew hers. Seizing the moment Jonathan acted quickly be fore she could regain her composure. He told her who he was. This seemed to fluster her even more. There was some other unavoidable small talk and then he posed the big question---The reason he came. He asked Irma for a copy of his birth certificate. There were a few for malities he need to go through but all in all it was much easier than he thought it would be.

The End

The Interpretation

I originally was going to write about a little boy. I started out with his dad in the hospital waiting to hear he was born. As I began to write this seemed far to simple and boring. I also thought this story would be a novel if I wrote about this boy's life, especially if it took this long just to write his birth. I was going to write about a boy exaggerating to his parents but wouldn't that have been much worse? Please say yes. Instead I chose to write about a man who exaggerated everything in his mind to the point that getting a birth certificate became a whole night ordeal. In my opinion the most subtle yet potent form of exaggeration. Exaggeration of the mind.

In English class in high school we were always told what the authors meant in their stories. I often wonder who made up the author's interpretations. To avoid any confusion when this story is studied in English classes around the country I will provide the intent.

Main purpose

Show through subtle means the futility of exaggeration.


This story is copyrighted 1989 and I retain this copyright. You may freely copy it as long as this copyright notice remains intact.