The Steel Boy

Steel Boy

Thomas had never known what to call his home. No one else did either. When you’re the son of a man as rich as his father was, “house” just doesn’t cut it. Mansion, manor, estate, eyesore. There were too many options, and Thomas found his voice hollow growing up in a place where it echoed so loudly. He always saw that alienation as a prime motivator for all he’d accomplished in life. Little boys shouldn’t have butlers. Little boys shouldn’t get lost on their way to dinner. Little boys shouldn’t grow up with wings. Not that he’d ever mention that to The Wall Street Journal.

Even though he was born on third base, Thomas still ran home as fast as he could. He’d met his father’s impossible demands to maintain the family business, ground his teeth to the top of his medical school class and kept the love of his life from getting away, but he sat now in his study lamenting his first major failure in life.

They’d been trying for over a year, but Martha and Thomas couldn’t turn their house — or whatever you’re inclined to call it — into a nest. She’d read all the books and decorated a room with sunshine yellows and baby blues. She’d bought a bassinet. She’d taken all the vitamins. She’d done everything but get pregnant.

Thomas could hear her singing the kitchen, working on what he’d begun calling “consolation dinners.” She had always been a magician with an oven, but the recipe cards had ballooned (in number and complexity) after the first six months of watching doctors shake their heads. Thomas’ colleagues had no idea what was wrong. Then again, the most natural thing of all time had always been a bit of a mystery, and he couldn’t deny that the date nights had brought him and Martha closer together.

Hadn’t he helped anyone who needed it? Hadn’t he happily used his wealth for the greater good? Couldn’t he fit through the eye of a needle? The questions swirled, multiplied and threatened to turn his town square optimism into back alley despair. Thanks to a family tradition of honoring great-grandparents, his son’s name had already been chosen, and when he looked up from his daze, Thomas realized that he’d written it over and over under the letterhead of an old expense report. How many lives had he saved? Why couldn’t he make one of his own?

He thought of Martha and how every barren week added another bit of steel to her heart and another recipe to the box. He’d tamed the wild socialite out of her just as she’d pulled his head out of his books, and it was her warmth that had kept the place from feeling so cold. He pictured her facing down the prospect of a half-century of only having him to cook for.

Thomas sighed and crumpled up the expense report.

The explosion brought him to his feet. It sounded like thunder bubbling up from the ground at the edge of the forest. If it had happened in the city, it might have seemed like the gangland balance sheet dipping into the red again, but they were far enough away from all that. The closest thing to violence they’d seen here on the outskirts was when Martha’s friend Cecilia had gotten drunk enough to drop an antique Gorham decanter at the New Year’s Eve party.

Smoke curled about a hundred yards to the east of the mansion, and a massive crater had been carved out of the wilderness. An egg-shaped hunk of metal sat in the center, smoldering in the last moments of sunlight.

“Don’t touch it.”

It had only taken a moment for Thomas to catch up with his wife who, he thought, had run a little too fast toward the danger. He put a hand on her shoulder.

“What do you think it is?” she asked.

“I don’t know, but we should call the police.”

“Don’t be absurd, Thomas. Something this fantastic can’t be left to the police.”

“I suppose you want to dig it out and turn it into a centerpiece for the foyer?”

“Not at all,” she smiled at him. “I’d like you to dig it out and see what we’re dealing with.”

There was no use in fighting. Thomas braced himself, sliding down the cut until he was standing in front of the earth-stabbing curiosity. He shuddered, unable to get any closer.

“It’s too cold!” he yelled up. “It’s freezing down here!”

“How bad can it be?”

He was about to answer when the the egg split in two, releasing its top half as if on invisible hinges. Thomas scrambled up the depression and into his wife’s arms. When he turned around, they were looking down at a small child, fast asleep in the middle of the crater. Martha didn’t wait for her husband. She was in the hole and holding the tiny thing in her arms as Thomas stood frozen at the top of the embankment.

“It’s a gift! A gift from God!” she shouted.

Thomas started to cry. He joined his wife, and they stood in ruined dinner attire reveling in their infant miracle. They didn’t even notice the written note where the child had lain. They wouldn’t have understood it anyway — the language was bizarre and otherworldly, the symbol at the top indecipherable. They’d explore later. For now, they were transfixed.

All at once, Thomas could see little feet shuffling through the hallways, little fingertips tracing the walls, little laughs transmitting life from room to room. First steps and first words and first grade and beyond.

“Call Alfred,” Thomas said, regaining his composure.

“It’s his day off, darling.”

“He’ll need to know about this. He’ll need to know everything. Now let me hold him again.”

She handed the joyous bundle over, and the child cooed with comfort.

“We have a son,” Thomas said.

“I’ll call Yale and let them know to reserve a spot in 18 years.”

“I hope that dinner you made hasn’t burned. It’s now a celebration.”

“It always was,” Martha said.

Thomas met her eyes with wonderment.

“If we’re going to keep this child, there’s something you should know,” Martha placed her hands just below her belly. “Tonight wasn’t another consolation, Dr. Wayne. I’m pregnant.”

Thomas beamed in disbelief.

“Then they’re both gifts from God,” he said before lifting his son up in the air against the darkening sky. “Did you hear that, Bruce? You’re going to be a big brother.”


Copyright retained by author. Reproduction or reuse of this work of fiction is not permissible unless approved by author.