"Wait here," he said, and went down the steps, breaking a path
through the drifts. The doors of the old car were frozen, and it
him several minutes to get one open. A white cloud flew up,
when the door at last swung back, and he scrambled on the
floor of the backseat for the ice scraper and brush. When he
emerged his wife was leaning against a porch pillar, her
on her arms. He understood in that moment both how much pain
she was in and that the baby was really coming, coming that very
night. He resisted a powerful urge to go to her and, instead,
his energy into freeing the car, warming first one bare hand and
then the other beneath his armpits when the pain of the cold
too great, warming them but never pausing, brushing snow
from the windshield and the windows and the hood, watching it
scatter and disappear into the soft sea of white around his
"You didn't mention it would hurt this much," she said, when he
reached the porch. He put his arm around her shoulders and
helped her down the steps. "I can walk," she insisted. "It's
the pain comes."
"I know," he said, but he did not let her go.
When they reached the car she touched his arm and gestured to
the house, veiled with snow and glowing like a lantern in the
of the street.
"When we come back we'll have our baby with us," she said.
"Our world will never be the same."
The windshield wipers were frozen, and snow spilled down the
back window when he pulled into the street. He drove slowly,
thinking how beautiful Lexington was, the trees and bushes so
heavy with snow. When he turned onto the main street the wheels
hit ice and the car slid, briefly, fluidly, across the
to rest by a snowbank.
"We're fine," he announced, his head rushing. Fortunately, there
wasn't another car in sight. The steering wheel was as hard and
cold as stone beneath his bare hands. Now and then he wiped at
windshield with the back of his hand, leaning to peer through
hole he'd made. "I called Bentley before we left," he said,
his colleague, an obstetrician. "I said to meet us at the
go there. It's closer."
She was silent for a moment, her hand gripping the dashboard as
she breathed through a contraction. "As long as I don't have my
baby in this old car," she managed at last, trying to joke. "You
how much I've always hated it."
He smiled, but he knew her fear was real, and he shared it.
Methodical, purposeful: even in an emergency he could not
change his nature. He came to a full stop at every light,
turns to the empty streets. Every few minutes she braced one
against the dashboard again and focused her breathing, which
made him swallow and glance sideways at her, more nervous on
that night than he could ever remember being. More nervous than
his in first anatomy class, the body of a young boy peeled open
its secrets. More nervous than on his wedding day, her family
filling one side of the church, and on the other just a handful
colleagues. His parents were dead, his sister too.
There was a single car in the clinic parking lot, the nurse's
powder-blue Fairlane, conservative and pragmatic and newer than
his own. He'd called her, too. He pulled up in front of the
and helped his wife out. Now that they had reached the office
they were both exhilarated, laughing as they pushed into the
lights of the waiting room.
The nurse met them. The moment he saw her, he knew something
was wrong. She had large blue eyes in a pale face that might
have been forty or twenty-five, and whenever something was not
her liking a thin vertical line formed across her forehead, just
her eyes. It was there now as she gave them her news: Bentley's
car had fishtailed on the unplowed country road where he
lived, spun around twice on the ice beneath the snow, and
into a ditch.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...