She wouldn’t even look at me.
“Did we have fun?”
“You have no idea.”
“We should’ve called the police.”
“The Los Angeles police have bigger fish to fry, Savannah, as you well know, being a resident of this fine city.”
She exhaled and watched other cars pass by.
“You know, Logan, at some point, you’re going to have to stop acting like you’re still twenty-five. Someday, you’re going to have to grow up.”
Had I still been twenty-five, I would’ve likely sent Ken/ Nitro to the emergency room on principle alone. I didn’t say that, though, as Savannah cranked the ignition and merged into traffic. I didn’t say anything. We were late for the lady doctor.
Dr. Sharma squeezed a puddle of clear goop onto Savannah’s tummy from a plastic bottle that could’ve just as easily dispensed catsup. Then he smeared the goop across her skin with a hand-held transducer while watching a computer monitor propped near the examining table on which she lay.
“There it is,” he said enthusiastically in an accent that smelled deliciously of Bombay curry.
I peered at the monitor. The grainy, black and white image on-screen looked like something the Apollo astronauts might’ve captured on film while orbiting the moon — a dark, irregularly shaped crater.
“There what is?” I asked.
Dr. Sharma maneuvered the transducer around Savannah’s abdomen like he was grinding pesto until the computer’s cursor rested on a small, throbbing mass of pixels at the edge of the crater. He looked over his half-glasses and nodded to his ultrasound technician, a Rubenesque Latina garbed in violet-colored scrubs decorated with butterflies who was standing beside a keyboard attached to the ultrasound machine. As she typed, the words, “BABY’S HEART,” appeared on the monitor, followed by, “HI MOMMY AND DAD, CAN’T WAIT TO SEE YOU BOTH!!!”
“This,” she said, “is the happiest day of my life.”
The technician clasped her hands to her mouth and cried happy tears. Dr. Sharma wiped his eyes. I may well have choked up, too, but I was still too much in shock at my life having changed so quickly and radically.
You’re going to be somebody’s father, Logan. What in the world has the world come to?
We’d been divorced for more than six years, Savannah and I. The murder of my former fellow covert operator, Arlo Echevarria, the man she’d dumped me for, had prompted our reconciliation of sorts. She’d approached me several months earlier and I’d grudgingly agreed to her request to help the Los Angeles Police Department hunt down Echevarria’s killer. I knew long after our divorce that I could never stop loving her, but there still remained a part of me that loathed her for having left me to begin with. Which was why, when she told me that she was pregnant with my child, I couldn’t decide whether to run to her or as far away as I could. Sitting there in that doctor’s office, I still wasn’t sure. But looking down at Savannah’s ravishing, tear-streaked face as she gazed in awe at the monitor and the image of our seven-week-old baby, I knew one thing: she was right; I’d never seen her so happy.
Dr. Sharma printed out a photo of the fetus and handed it to her.
“Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Logan,” he said.
Savannah Carlisle Echevarria grasped my hand and smiled through her tears. She hadn’t been Mrs. Logan for a long time. She didn’t try to correct him, though. Neither of us did.
Through the window of the examining room, across the rooftops of West LA, I gazed toward the gleaming bank towers of Century City. It was one of those perfect autumn mornings in Southern California when the smog drifts off toward Riverside, giving way to clean azure skies and a vaguely defined exuberance that no dream is impossible.
I told myself that fatherhood’s a good thing. Perhaps the best of things. Whether I’d be good at it, that was another thing.
We celebrated pending parenthood over coffee and pie at Du-par’s diner in Los Angeles’s venerable, midcity Farmers Market, a bustling warren of hole-in-the-wall eateries at Third and Fairfax offering everything from Cajun to Korean.
“Have I ever told you my algebraic theory about why pie is really health food?”
“ ‘Pie is made from fruit. Fruit is good for you. Ergo, pie is good for you.’ Only about a hundred times, Logan. We used to be married, remember?”
“We were married? That was you? Really?”
My former wife smiled and licked the last of the lemon meringue from her fork. The restaurant was jammed. Every table and booth filled. We sat at the counter on red leather swivel chairs as waitresses in Depression-era uniforms ferried cheeseburgers and patty melts to hungry customers.
“I never asked you,” I said.
“Asked me what?”
“How this happened.”
Savannah looked over at me. “How what happened?”
“You. Me. The three of us.”
“How I got pregnant, you mean?”
“I’m happy to go through the basics, Logan,” she said coyly, “though I have to say, you already seem to have the process down pretty good.”
“I just didn’t think that it was possible, a woman your age — not that you’re old or anything.”
She hoisted a disapproving eyebrow.
“Thanks for the compliment.”
“C’mon, Savannah. You know what I meant.”
“Relax, Logan. I’m just yanking your chain.” She reached over and speared a forkful of my cherry pie like a trout going after a fly. “To answer your question, I didn’t think I could, either. I wasn’t using anything, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“I probably should’ve asked beforehand.”
“A little late for that now,” Savannah said.
She ate another piece of my pie. “So, tell me: where do you see yourself fitting in with all of this?”
“Being a parent.”
It was time for The Talk: what logistical role did I foresee playing in the care and rearing of the new life we would soon be introducing to the world. Savannah was a former fashion model who barely earned enough income in her new occupation as an unlicensed life coach to cover the groceries. We both knew, however, that she possessed more than adequate resources to comfortably support a child on her own, thanks to her father, a ridiculously wealthy West Texas oilman.
On the other hand, I had virtually no assets except for the Ruptured Duck, my ratty old Cessna 172 that recently had been rebuilt by my aircraft mechanic friend, Larry Kropf, after I’d run into a little trouble down in San Diego. I operated a flight school headquartered in an oversized storage closet that I sublet from Larry out of his World War II-era hangar at the Rancho Bonita Airport, but my students, unfortunately, were few — as in none. In other words, I was in no financial shape to support a baby, let alone myself.
“We both know you’re in no financial shape to support a new baby,” Savannah said.
On top of gorgeous, my ex-wife apparently also was clairvoyant.
The waitress refilled my cup. I waited until she moved off.
“There’s more to being a father than paying the bills, Savannah,” I said.
Not that I had a clue what I was talking about. I never knew my real father or mother. My childhood was spent as a ward of the state of Colorado, shunted from one foster home to the next. Whatever parental role models I had were no role models at all. They were hardscrabble cattle ranchers and dry-wheat farmers, mostly, who’d welcomed me into their modest homes not because of some abiding Christian kindness, but because I represented help for daily chores, and because the county was paying them to board me. None of my foster fathers ever took me to a ball game, helped me with my homework, or counseled me about the birds and the bees. I was extra income and an extra set of hands. Little more. Still, I believed I had the intuitive makings of a passably respectable dad.