“We’re going to revisit your blood, run some extra tests since it’s your third miscarriage in as many years, Mrs. Cozbi.”
Susan stared into Dr. Tims’ cold eyes, one hand gripping Chuck, the other the arm of the teak chair. “I thought it was because the fetus had too many chromosomes? You’re saying there could be something wrong with me?”
Dr. Tims’ face made a V shape, gaze drifting towards Chuck. “Or him.”
Chuck clutched Susan’s tiny hand and began rubbing his fingertips over her knuckles. “No need for tests, Doc. We’ll just keep trying.”
Dr. Tims took off his white coat, revealing a red bow tie against a baby-blue button-down shirt. “It’s no harm, really. We’ll run tests on the blood we already have and get the results back in the morning. If we don’t find anything there, we’ll see what we find in you, Mr. Cozbi.”
On the car ride home, Chuck wiped Susan’s tears with tissues he kept in the glove compartment. “If you think it’ll help you get through your grief, then I’m willing to talk to somebody, Sugar Bear.”
Barefoot on the bed, Susan sipped from a bottle of Barefoot Sweet Red as she scrolled through her Google search. Dr. Tims’ voice burned a frightful flame in her mind, replaying the day’s heartache. She pressed the wine bottle into her lips until it made a faint print on them. She stopped her thumb on the screen then tapped it on Schedule Your Online Session Now.
Susan turned to Chuck rolled over on his side. “Looks like we can get in with this guy, Randy Montgomery, tomorrow morning.”
Chuck craned his neck to look at her. “If that’s what you want, Sugar Bear.” He kissed her and curled back into his cocoon.
Randy Montgomery wore a backward baseball hat and an adolescent scruff under his chin. The crunching sound of Chuck biting bacon muffled Randy’s introduction to the session. “I’m not one to mince words. I know why you’re here, so let’s get to it. Tell me about your sex life.”
Susan spilled her parsley drink, made religiously by Chuck, administered three times a day, an old family remedy for long life. Chuck only drank the stuff once a day. He told Susan he’d got enough of it as a kid. Chuck grew the parsleys next to his rose bush in the small garden he tended with the care of a bonsai master. As a little boy, he watched granddad plant Parsleys around the roses. Old man Cozbi told Chuck the same story thousand times over. “You see, Chucky, the parsley repels rose beetles and attracts hoverflies. The hoverflies prey on aphids, one of the bugs that can very quickly overtake our roses. And a rose is only as beautiful as its ability to remain protected and alone.”
Susan held the mute button on the computer and looked at Chuck’s plain unfazed face. “Maybe this isn’t the right guy.”
Chuck picked up another piece of the brittle meat, a faint smile waxing over his lips. “Sounds right enough to me.”
Randy continued. “Because in all my years, well, two anyway, of counseling couples, the trouble couples have comes down to coupling.”
“Coupling?” said a confused Chuck.
Randy nodded. “Coupling.”
A single tear struggled down Susan’s cheek. She clicked the unmute button. “We received news of my third miscarriage yesterday. We just need somebody to talk it through with. That’s all.”
Chuck wiped his hands on his banana-patterned pajamas, then wrapped his arms around Susan. “It’s been a rough patch, Randy. But I love this woman. I’d do anything for her. For us.”
Randy flipped his hat forwards. Bright blue stitching spelled Beer Me across it. “I’m sorry to hear that, Chuck. But all the more reason for sex, I say. There’s no blame here. How could there be? Something as terrible as a miscarriage. Nobody’s responsible for that. It’s just bad luck. Three times? Hell, real bad luck. Bad juju, maybe.” Randy made a show of flexing his chest. “You need some new juju if you folks are tracking with me. And that starts with this.” Randy pounded his fist into his open hand. The slapping sound caromed off Chuck and Susan’s pasty white bedroom walls.
Chuck nodded, grabbed Susan’s parsley drink, and titled it against her mouth. Her face made the usual squeamish expression. Even after five years of drinking the green goo, it never went down easily. Chuck set the glass onto the stained coffee table. He wiggled about in his chair, biting his fingernails, then, after an awkward silence, pointed his mouth into the laptop microphone. “I’ll be real for a minute here, Randy.” Susan bent her neck to look at Chuck. He didn’t notice her. “There’s not a day I’m not ready and eager to paddle the pink canoe. To feed the caged kitty. Hell, I’ll play the part of three-minute wonder boy if I have to. But every time it gets to be my turn to butter my biscuit, it becomes all about making sure the oven’s hot enough to get something growing. If I’m honest, I feel a bit used.”
Susan put her hands on her blood-moon cheeks then inched her chair away from Chuck’s, her face the expression of a deer in headlights.
Randy nodded in encouragement. “Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. You people need some steam!”. Randy stood and looked at a bikini-clad Ms. November hanging on the wall. He turned back to the couple. “Let me shift gears on you folks for a minute. From what I’m hearing, Susan is eager for kids so much so that Chuck, you feel overlooked and undercooked? Now Chuck, are you wanting kids, or just wanting to paddle around on the white water?”
Susan’s green parsley lips moved with trepidation. “It’s no secret he doesn’t want kids….”
“For God’s sakes, Sugar Bear….” Chuck’s voice boomed in Randy’s earphones before Susan could say another word.
“Where the hell you get that idea from?”
Susan looked like a wilted rose; chin tucked into the top of her chest. “From being married to you for five years.”
“Yes. Get it out. Get it all out. This is good.”
Susan and Chuck sat with folded arms and straight-jacket faces. Randy made a note then proceeded with his questions. “Susan, what do you want out of motherhood?”
Arms dropping to her side, Susan whispered. “From the time I was a young girl, I’ve always wanted somebody to love with my entire being, somebody who needed my care. A child would make our family complete.”
“You hear that, Randy? This is exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve never been more than a piece of a puzzle to her. Why can’t I receive that love?” Chuck glared at Susan. “I give it to you!”
“I’ll get to that, Chuck.” Randy’s baritone voice went bass deep.
But Chuck stood up and stormed out of the room, slamming his hand on the wall on the way out.
Susan sobbed, looking at Chuck’s empty chair. “I’m sorry, Randy. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea.”
Randy flipped his cap backward again. “Tell me, has he always been so adamant in not wanting any kids?”
Susan swiped her sleeve against her eyes and nose. “He’s never said that in so many words. But I guess I’ve always known it. I’m just like his rose bush outside. To be protected. He’s afraid he’ll lose me otherwise.”
The alarm on Randy’s phone blared with the chorus from Drop It Like It’s Hot. “Well, look at that. Our first session has come to an end. Let’s get you scheduled in for your next one.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t think so.” Susan closed the laptop before Randy could pick up his pen. The front door shutting made a gentle sound. She heard Chuck’s car reversing out of the driveway. She watched him travel over the hill and out of view. A fresh parsley drink, a single rose, and a note rested on the entrance table.
I’m sorry, Sugar Bear. I’m with you. When I get back tonight, we’ll talk about our favorite names. Don’t forget to drink your parsley- all my love. Chuck.
Susan smiled. A single tear ran down her cheek and landed on Chuck’s note. She smelled the red rose. The floral aroma buried the grassy scent from the parsley. She squeezed the bridge of her nose then sipped the thick, green liquid. Her iPhone rang in her pocket. She set her drink back on the table and sat on a rarely used wicker chair. “Dr. Tims. Good morning.”
“Mrs. Cozbi, we have some urgent news. I’m sorry we missed it earlier, but while reexamining your blood, we found an extensive amount of myristicin in it.”
Susan’s voice trembled. “What’s that?”
“Myristicin is a common compound found in many herbs and spices, generally safe to consume for women trying to get pregnant. But the amount in your system is most definitely the cause of your miscarriages. Do you consume a large amount of nutmeg?”
Susan sipped on the parsley drink. “No.”
“Carrots? Black pepper? Celery? Dill? Parsley?”
The green parsley drink spewed from Susan’s mouth, painting the light brown door with a vomit color. “Parsley. I drink parsley three, sometimes four times a day.”
“That’s it! That’s the cause of your miscarriages! How long have you been drinking parsley in such large quantities?”
The iPhone dropped to the ground, shattering the face.
“Mrs. Cozbi. You still there? Mrs. Cozbi?”
Susan fell to her knees, sobbing, whispering. “Ever since I told Chuck I wanted kids.”
by Luke Beling
South African born, Luke Beling, left home at 19. In 2007, he graduated from Campbellsville University with a BA in English. Luke has had several short stories published in magazines, including: Quiet Shorts (2012), Eyelands(2019), and New Reader Magazine (2021). Luke is the director of tennis for a private club on the Big Island of Hawaii and a content writer for a popular surf brand. Luke is also an indie-folk singer-songwriter. Follow him @BelingLuke.
photo credit: Nick Collins