Bewildering Stories

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Life in the Fast Lane

by Charles Richard Laing

The sex was always good with Nathan, and most days Edith would have liked nothing more than to spend the entire day in bed with him. Today was different, however. After they made love just once she surprised him by insisting he leave. She could tell he was hurt, but that couldn’t be helped. To do what she needed to do she had to be alone.

Nathan wasn’t out the door five minutes before Edith set his sperm to work. There were millions of them swimming inside her, heading upstream. Edith selected the strongest and allowed it to reach her egg. Fertilization was instantaneous. Edith was pregnant.

Less than a minute later Edith gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. While she cleaned the blood and slime off his body she examined him carefully with a critical eye, going over him inch by squirming inch looking for the slightest flaw. She couldn’t find a single one. He was utterly perfect: ten powerful little fingers, ten wriggling little toes. He stared up at her with alert, bright blue eyes: warm eyes filled with trust and love. He started out life as bald as a cue ball. This gave Edith a moment’s distress when she thought about his father’s unfortunate receding hairline, but it didn’t take long for silky blonde hair to sprout on his precious head. It literally erupted into a thick halo of gold.

Edith loved him from the moment he was born. She rocked him in her arms and softly crooned the lullaby her mother had sung to her until he grew too heavy to carry.

She placed him on the ground and he immediately started to crawl. He started walking at three minutes, swiftly making the adjustment from awkward baby steps to a graceful — almost military — stride that made her laugh with delight. At five minutes he was talking up a red storm, speaking in full sentences and entertaining her with strange whimsical stories. At seven minutes he was reading at a twelve-minute level.

Every mother liked to think her child was special. It’s natural. But Edith recognized just what she had with Nathan Junior. It wasn’t just a mother’s unconditional love blinding her to obvious flaws. Nathan Junior clearly stood out from the crowd. Anyone could see what a perfect little boy he was.

* * *

His troubles started at ten minutes. Life was a little too easy for him. He could excel without breaking a sweat, so he rarely did. He developed lazy habits. He got bored with everything. Like so many bright young minds left unchallenged by the system, he rebelled.

He started hanging out with the wrong crowd.

He discovered vice. He was a sad, staggering alcoholic at twelve minutes, and a burnt-out heroin addict before his thirteenth minute. He committed petty crimes in an attempt to fund his pathetic habits. Crime was the first thing he failed at. He was a poor criminal. There were a series of embarrassing arrests, which required a series of expensive lawyers. The expensive lawyers recommended a series of expensive therapists. Edith spent every penny she could beg, borrow or steal in a futile attempt to clean up her son’s messes.

The constant stress this brought on led her to have a breakdown of her own.

Finally, desperate and stoned, Nathan Junior ended it all. On a sunny afternoon he blew up his heart with an injection of almost pure horse. He was sixteen minutes old.

Edith watched in horror as he crumbled into dust. She cried for an hour, mourning all the lost potential. Each wonderful memory was another needle in her heart.

* * *

When Nathan Senior came back later that afternoon she ended the affair. Taken aback, he asked why.

With a sad sigh of regret, she told him she just didn’t see any future for them.

Copyright © 2005 by Charles Richard Laing

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