Doctor Miltowne absently rubbed his temple with his right hand as he looked at the chart in his left.
Glancing at the anxious young couple as they waited for him to speak, the tired physician tried to force a cheerful grin, but Miltowne's thin physique, humorless demeanor and rounded, hairless skull sometimes gave his patients the feeling that they were being diagnosed by a walking skeleton or perhaps even the Grim Reaper himself. The Reaper in a lab coat and heavy, horn-rimmed glasses.
Mr. and Mrs. Septek exchanged quick, worried looks. Danny Septek, at 25, was six years older than his wife, Helen, but the morbidly obese Helen outweighed her husband by nearly three hundred pounds. Five feet tall, five feet wide and nineteen years old, Helen was a dull, incurious woman who,until recently, had never left her tiny Appalachian birthplace .
Danny loved her.
Two weeks ago, Helen had won twenty thousand dollars from a scratch-off lottery ticket and had elected to treat herself to a "tummy-tuck", so she booked a consultation with Dr.Miltowne, a process which required a fifty-mile round trip to the nearby city of Remington . Helen's plan was to lose as much weight as surgically possible and then use whatever money that was left over to purchase a new wardrobe from the Wal-Mart that had just opened in South Remington. Armed with bag after bag of newly acquired clothing, she would return to Royal Oak and surprise her friends with her slim, fashionable new self. If the Doctor approved the operation, that is.
First, Helen had to undergo a battery of tests and procedures. The results of those tests were due today. Now.
For a moment, the three people remained silent, the husband seated next to his wife; she reclining on a sloping, undersized bed and the doctor hovering in the doorway. Mr. Septek inhaled audibly as the middle-aged Miltowne shuffled inside, pulling the door shut behind him.
Helen was the first to speak.
"Well? Can I have the operation or not?", she burst out, her close-set brown eyes wide with pleading. "Can I have it soon?"
"Mmm", commented Miltowne, " the news is good. But first I have to ask a few questions."
"Oh good!", clapped Helen.
"Oh, great", Danny said, stroking his mullet without enthusiasm. He not-so-secretly wanted to buy a truck with Helen's lottery winnings. The tummy-tuck, he griped , was a waste. Besides, he liked Helen just fine the way she was. Nobody made fun of her. Not any more.
Folks had learned to respect Danny and his bride ever since Danny had knocked three teeth out of Billy Byrd's mouth at last summer's 4-H Picnic. Billy had told one too many "fat jokes" for Danny's liking, so Danny had politely asked if Billy would please be so kind as to shut his fucking piehole. Billy replied with a sexually descriptive negative. Danny punched him once, hard and fast, and Billy reeled, clutching blood and teeth as he staggered away into the crowd, eliciting a few guffaws but little sympathy.
That was a year ago. Billy and Danny had long ago made up and were best friends again, but around Danny, Billy carefully limited the target of his his jokes to "coloreds", Mexicans, queers, Democrats and the Dallas Cowboys football team. Fat chicks were off-limits.
"How long," Dr. Miltowne asked Helen, " has it been since your last period?"
"It was right after me and Danny got married. Then it stopped."
Danny ticked months off on his fingers,"...March, April...eight months. And two halves."
"Two halves of a month?", a confused Miltowne quizzed Danny, then turned to Helen asking, "it stopped?"
"Well, maybe two halves or two-thirds of a month", replied the husband," ever how many weeks that is. We got married 'bout nine months ago, I think".
" Momma said my "dirty" bleeding was God's punishment on account of women being sinful," explained Helen. "After Danny and me got married, I wasn't sinful no more, so the punishment stopped."
Miltowne set his clipboard on a stainless countertop and briefly pressed his suddenly throbbing forehead with both hands.
"Mrs. Septek", asked the weary doctor,"did you know that you are pregnant? In your paperwork you indicated that you have experienced no menstrual irregularities, nausea or other symptoms...but you just said you have missed eight or nine months. That is irregular."
"No, doc, it's like Momma said", explained Helen in a frustrated tone," it ain't irregular, it's normal, it's 'cause I ain't got no more sin in me. I been sick a lot lately, but I thought that was a good thing, me being so fat and all, so I didn't think to bring it up."
Miltowne winced at Helen's unwitting pun, struggling not to grimace as he continued speaking.
"Helen", he said, trying to be comforting," you are going to be a mother soon. I suspect that you will have twins but we will know for certain as soon as we do another test. It won't hurt."
"Oooooo", Helen was wordless with joy as she stretched out her arms toward Danny.
"I reckon I can kiss that fuckin' truck good-bye", remarked a grinning Danny as he struggled to wrap his arms around Helen's enormous bulk.
"OOOOO", repeated a flushed Helen, sitting up.
"You already done said that", observed Danny.
Helen sat back, smiling again. Gas pains, she said. Too many Ho-Hos for dinner.
Miltowne signaled for a nurse and turned towards Danny.
"You might want to start thinking about names", he advised.