Gain

Two police cars, belatedly responding to the earlier complaint about my mother's honking, approached the house from different directions. The cops had waited for Armstrong's words to come crackling over the radio before responding to the inconsequential call. Their flashlights added nothing to the star-consuming light shed by the streetlamp, but they flashed them around importantly. Revolving blue light played over the neighbors' brightly lit windows where faces could be seen poking out from behind drawn curtains. The moon, which had held humans in thrall for 100,000 years, had now been attained, would soon be old news. The neighbors, though it was almost midnight, were too excited to sleep, craved new entertainment. One of the officers radioed for an ambulance while the other two spoke to Jerry, asking what had happened and how much held paid for the car.

Jerry tried to sit her up so as to ease the birth, his arms scooped under her armpits. The officers' idea of crisis management was to keep everybody separated so they pulled Jerry away and laid my mother out. They put a rolled-up jacket under her head and moved off a bit down the sidewalk, out of the glare of the streetlight where they could gaze properly on the crescent moon, squinting, claiming to see glints of light from where they imagined the lander to be.

Jerry explained that he'd had no experience with automatic transmissions. The officers agreed that it was hard to keep up, especially when you were already used to something that worked.

The ambulance arrived. The attendants appeared weightless in their spotless whites under the bright streetlight. A doctor was with them who grabbed mother's wrist with fingers strong as forceps and shook his head. He lifted her dress, the three policemen turned away and cast admonitory looks into the neighbors' windows where curtains and blinds quickly fell back into place. Other lights winked off, leaving only bluish TV shadows playing in otherwise darkened homes.

Steel glinted in the doctor's yawning black bag. My mother's paper-luminous belly hove into view, voluptuous as a globe. With one deft flashing arc of his arm my mother's skin parted and I was given a window on the world.

Jerry was taken to the hospital in a squad car that wailed all the way. He and the officer watched replays of the landing, already reduced to a rerun, on the waiting room's TV, discussing the wonders of modern technology. The cop, who said he was due to retire and had seen things Jerry wouldn't believe, shook his head a little sadly. "You lose what you gain," he said. "You lose what you gain."

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