A Short Story by Jack Mint

I had noticed him as if remembering someone from the past. Curiosity pulled me with the promise of blissful nostalgia if I could just get a look at his face. His memory didn’t have a name but perhaps a pure and joyful remembrance would come back of the guy I wish I got to know better.

Like most good omens in my life, he slipped away. The crowd at First Friday swallowed into their boisterous bustle. It was a blind hope anyway. I’d been here my entire life and would have remembered a man as good looking as that one. I realized that even my fondest memories were just withing for something better so I consoled myself with funnel cake.

After putting in my order and stepping away, I turned and he was looking at me. He weaved through the crowd like a needle closing a wound and the distance between us. My funnel cake was done and he stood next to me. They called the name on the order and the whole street went quiet when he asked, “Is your name Lindsey? I’m Denny.” And my dumb mouth said, “I know.”

A year and a week later I walked out of the bathroom with a positive pregnancy test. I cried because a year after that First Friday, I came home from work and Denny with all his things were gone. I stood in front of the ice cream freezer and closed the planned parenthood number on my phone. A shiver ran up my spine when a shopper passed behind me. An old lady and her shopping cart cruised by looking straight forward as if determined not to betray her glance over my shoulder.

People smiled at me and my dog while walking in the park. Some smiles were for my dog, but most were because I was starting to show. I walked several laps but only saw other people walking or running the dirt track once. The sun was setting so perhaps everyone was on their last lap and went home. My dog turned and issued a growl I had never heard from her before. Expecting another dog or runner to pass me I turned around ready to apologize. Everyone in the park who had passed me were now walking the same direction I was. They dispersed like a flock of birds. One runner had Denny’s favorite hat on backwards. Was it him? I screamed his name. Everyone walked away with deaf ears, especially the man who I thought was the father of my child.

Fear’s fingers caged me inside my house. I only went out for work and doctor’s appointments. Uber eats drivers waited for me to come to the door to get my food before they drove off. One time, I did not open the door for half an hour after the delivery and the red Civic with the uber eats sticker was still waiting, blocking my driveway. At work, customers came to specifically ask about my health and the baby. A customer who looked like a seventy-year-old Denny chuckled and said, “a boy huh? I bet he’ll be a real lady killer, Lindsey.” With that, he left without buying anything.

A year and nine months after Denny abandoned me and his baby, my mother helped me into the car as the contractions were almost incessant.

“It’s noon, but it’s like no one is out here.” Mother remarked as she drove me to the hospital. I was focusing on my breathing when she said, “Oh my gosh, Lindsey . . .”

A huge crowd stood in front of the ER. A giant banner read WELCOME HOME BABY DENNY. Cheers erupted when we got out of the car. As I hobbled over, they shouted and smiled and chanted and screamed. No one was bringing out a wheelchair and no one was moving from where they stood. I could barely hear my mother attempting to shout over the cacophony telling them to move so we could get in the doors. No one moved as they continued to congratulate me and cheer for the expected baby boy I was not going to name after his dead-beat father.

Pain and primeval adrenaline pumped through my brain as I shoved one of the crowd members out of the way. Another took their place and their shouts grew more intense. Not in anger, but like cheering the hometown team running down the field for the winning score. My mind swam with invasion of outside stimuli and the baby ready to be born. I shoved and cussed deeper but the crowd wouldn’t budge.

I turned around and my mother was gone amongst the celebrating throng. Cars were pulling up on the sidewalks and everyone in the town was coming out to celebrate and block my escape.