Duty To Conceive

by Victor David Sandiego | Published: Jan 17, 2023

Laura stood in the kitchen, stared out at the neat rows of brown houses.

Morning. Gray sky. A knock on the door.

“Yes?”

“Sign here.” A clipboard. A letter.

She closed the door, held the letter, looked at the sender, set the letter on the table, went back to the kitchen, stared out at the houses. A light rain fell.

The day moved across the sky. The gray remained.

At dinner, she told Paul. His face stayed stone. “We better read it,” he said.

“Let’s finish our food first.” Two or three houses over, a dog barked.

They sat on the couch and read. Instructions from the Population Department. Brief and to the point. Child needed. Create one. As soon as possible. An agent will contact.

“What do we do?” asked Laura. She stared at the wall.

“We do what they say,” said Paul.

“But I don’t want to.”

“The Department knows best.”

“They don’t know what’s best for me.”

Paul stood, paced, walked to a mirror on the wall, saw a tired, clean shaven man, massaged his cheeks, turned. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“I’ll have to give it up, Paul.”

“Maybe not.”

“You know better than that.”

“Yes,” said Paul. “I guess I do.” He sat again.

Rain dripped on the roof. On the street, a car passed, briefly illuminated the window.

“Maybe it won’t happen,” said Laura. “Maybe I won’t…”

“What?”

“Conceive.”

“Well, we have to try.” He reached out his hand.

Laura stayed still. “Do we?” she asked. For a moment her mouth tensed, then fell.

“If we don’t try, they’ll…” Paul stopped, withdrew his hand, took a deep breath.

“I know.”

A gust. Rain splattered the window

"Do you think I like this any more than you?" Paul asked.

“I think you don’t care.”

“I could lose my job.”

Laura stood, backed away from the couch. “Your job?” she asked. Her forehead furrowed.

“We must live.” Paul rubbed his temples with two fists, sighed.

“I hate this,” said Laura.

“It’s our duty.”

Laura turned to face the window, the refracted street. “Do you love me?” she asked.

“Come sit,” said Paul. He patted the couch.

She sat. “Answer the question, Paul.”

“Yes, I love you. But our bodies are not our own.”

“How did it come to this?”

Paul didn’t answer. They held each other.

The rain intensified. It hammered the roof.

Hammered it more.

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