THE CIRCLES by Robert Wagner


Below is an excerpt from the story.


Happiness washed over Red, threatening to overwhelm him in its abundance. He’d never admit that to anyone, his wife included, that this was the happiest day of his life. The day they got married, held a close second place, now that he officially was a daddy. It was one of those cliches, an incredible joy that people tried to describe but words didn’t do the feeling justice.

It had been a long, rough road, getting to the delivery room. During the procedure he’d held his breath without realizing it, as the doctor cut into his wife and delivered his child. For too many seconds Rose didn’t make any noise. Red let his breath out as if it would help. He couldn’t believe how tiny she was. He wanted to push the nurses out of the way and snatch her into his arms. She needed his protection.

All that ripped through his mind as he watched his daughter wiggle and release her first cry. After a brief hello to Mommy and Daddy, she’d been whisked away.
Now my little Rose is one day old, he thought, as he bounced down the hallway. He was glad to be out of the room, if even for a bit.

Doctor Williams had come in that morning and pronounced both Mommy and baby to be healthy. They would bring Rose down from the NICU in the afternoon and with luck, tomorrow they would go home. The news made Red both excited and anxious. His nerves rattled with insecurity and anxiety. All the train from class seemed to escape his mind.
Did he know how to take care of his baby the right way? How to feed her, put her to sleep? What if she got sick? She looked so small and fragile and Red had no clue what he was doing.
He took the elevator down to the lobby and walked out the sliding glass doors of the hospital. He moved out of the shadow of the building as he followed the sidewalk down the hill. The sun hit him and he sighed. The warmth on his face brought a calming effect. He closed his eyes and shifted his head towards its rays.

Hospitals weren’t his thing, even on such a good occasion. He required a break while his wife and daughter slept. When he returned, the hospital would unite them. He opened his eyes again and went on, crossing the street to an open green space. It was one of two parks in the downtown area. A few parents with their kids, not yet old enough for school, played around on the equipment. A scattering of tall, old trees threw a thin shade over the playground. Several park benches held people, a mix of what looked like retirees and businessmen and women on break. He watched the little kids climb and slide and swing with a goofy grin on his face as he walked a lap around the park.
That will be Rose one day before we know it. That also seemed like a cliche with a lot of truth in it.

Once back where he started, he made another lap, thinking about both the immediate and long-term future with his Rose. He took a tripped back over all the discussion he and Winter had over their schedules once the baby was home. Red wanted one of them to always be with Rose. Winter wished to return to work as soon as possible. He had yet to convince his boss to give him an altered schedule or do some work from home. If only he wasn’t so bad at confrontation. On his third lap one child, a little boy who looked about four, raced over to his mom and pointed at the sky. Red figured the kid saw an airplane. He went on walking until he noticed everyone else in the park stopping to gawk.
Guess it’s not an airplane? What is so mesmerizing up there?

He followed suit, turning and shading his eyes with his palm as he squinted. A roundish object floated along, way up with the wispy clouds. It seemed semi-transparent. It wasn’t close enough to make out details, but it didn’t look like any plane or helicopter to Red. Maybe a hot-air balloon? Whatever it was, it drifted down towards the ground and appeared to move against the wind. Red realized it was much bigger than he realized as it came closer.

The round shape in the sky crossed in front of the sun as it descended. Its shadow stretched over many of the towering buildings in the downtown skyline. Something graceful about its movements made Red think about it in terms of an animal instead of as a machine. Closer still, more details became discernible, but Red still didn’t understand what he was looking at. It looked like a cross between a mushroom top and a jellyfish. Semi-solid on top but under it were four membrane looking chambers. Each chamber shimmered a different color. Red, purple, orange, and green. The whole thing pulsed as it hung in the sky. Red marveled at the beauty.