The Secret of Life by Aaron Grayum

“Honey, where do you think babies come from?”

His wife stretched her legs out beneath the weight of her grandmother’s quilt and looked over at him, but she didn’t say anything.

“I ever tell you about the one and only time I asked my dad that question? Mom practically choked to death on her coffee, and I remember he just glared at me in the rearview mirror, like I’d murdered the dog.”

She set down her crochet hook and responded only with a puzzled silence. Her hand migrated toward her belly. He sat upright.

“You know, babe, I’ve just been wondering about it lately. Which I would think is normal right? I mean surely to Pete that’s normal. Now that you’re pregnant, I mean.”

He looked at her. She was studying him like he was a deformed vegetable she just pulled out of the dirt.

“Why aren’t you saying anything?”

“I don’t really know what say, Adam. We’ve talked about this before, don’t you remember? You know what I think about it all.”

“Yeah I know.”

He slid out of bed and walked over to the waiting crib, quiet in the shadows. He ran his fingers along the rail.

“Haven’t you ever wondered if you’ll just keep getting pregnant after all … this?” he gestured toward her belly.

“Well Adam, we’re still young so I imagine we’ll end up having quite a few. Maybe half a dozen. Maybe a whole. But it is what it is, you know. I still think the rain did it.”

“You’ve said that before. I’m just still not sure how that makes any sense,” he said.

“I don’t know, exactly. But when I was little, I guess in … second grade? I think it was second, anyway. We didn’t keep track of grades that much since mama taught me herself in the living room – and Joan was in mama’s belly back then, and I asked her how the baby got in there. Mama just told me something about the clouds raining and feeding the trees, and how they breathe out and make more clouds. She made it sound so poetic. But I didn’t get what it had to do with babies. And this other time my friend Carol – you remember her right? – she told me, back when you started coming around, ‘Don’t get knocked up. You’d best remember that raincoat.'”

Adam laughed as she scrunched her face up and shook her finger.

“And THEN there’s also the matter of rubbers. In high school I heard the other girls talking about using rubbers so they didn’t get pregnant. And I remember asking Carol’s gramma what a rubber was, and she told me back when she was a girl that’s what they called rain boots. So you see, all of this makes it sound like the rain’s involved somehow. I’m not sure how exactly, but there’s a connection.”

He crossed his arms.

“Yeah, but everybody gets wet when it rains, how come there aren’t babies all over the place, then?”

“Are you serious? How many people are there now? How many millions? There are babies all over the place!” she laughed.

“Yeah, but if women got pregnant every time it rained … like, what about in a place like Seattle where it rains all the time, are there tons more babies there than here? And then what about other places where it doesn’t rain, like say Mexico or the desert, how do they ever have babies?”

She shrugged.

“Well, you’d have to ask somebody from Seattle or Mexico, I guess. As far as where we live, it doesn’t rain all that much here. Maybe you have to be wet for a certain amount of time, or on a certain part of your body. Or maybe it’s a particular type of rain?”

Neither of them said anything for a while.

“Besides, ever heard of an umbrella?” she said.

He laughed at the broken silence.

“So it’s rain, huh?”

She shrugged.

Adam walked into the bathroom and brushed his teeth. He swished water and spit it out, then turned the light off.

“Hey babe, we’re gonna be out of toothpaste soon. Want me to run into town this week?”

“Mmm, maybe. If you feel like it.”

He walked over to the window and peeked out. The evening had been a clear one, but clouds were creeping in from the west. The window was cracked open and he could smell rain, and he wondered if that was what the ocean smelled like.

“So why rain, huh, and not something like swimming in a lake? Or heck, taking a shower or brushing your teeth. It’s the same water, isn’t it? We drink it every day.”

“I don’t know. But you understand how an apple isn’t good anymore once it falls from a tree? It’s still perfect until it hits the ground, then it’s just not the same. Could be that the rain needs a direct hit from above. Or it’s a certain type of rain?”

He shrugged.

“Anyway,” she said. “I doubt something as BIG as creating a living person would be something we’d have much control over. Can you even imagine?”

“No. I really can’t.”

He walked over from the window and placed his hand on her belly. They both felt a kick and they laughed.

“What do you figure this little guy is thinking about during all this talk?”

“Well, Adam, I’m sure she’s thinking we’re silly for even wondering.”

She smiled. “Babies are a gift, sweetie. We shouldn’t question a gift. Let’s just enjoy it.”

He smiled back and nodded and told her she was right. Maybe he would go into town next week. Or the next. At some point he figured they would need diapers. Maybe he’d buy more toothpaste then.

He leaned in and kissed her on the forehead, then walked back over to his side of the bed and slid in. He rested his head on his pillow and heard raindrops starting to softly tap-tap-tap on the roof over the garage. It was one of his favorite sounds in the world.

She returned to her crochet. It looked like she was making a tiny hat.

“I wish I could see my stitching better. My mama’s glasses just don’t work like they used to. Can you get me some new ones sometime?”

“Well you know we’d have to find a doctor in the phone book and let him shine a bright light straight into your eyeballs.”

She grimaced. “God! No thanks. You know how I feel about doctors and all. Never again, these will have to do.”

“I love you,” he sighed.

She grinned. “You’d better.”

After a few minutes she decided to set her crochet hook and yarn and tiny hat on the nightstand. She folded her glasses on top of the hat, and leaned in close to Adam.

She softly kissed his neck.

“You ready to go to sleep now?” she whispered into his ear, nibbling on his earlobe.

“Not a chance!” he laughed.

“Good, neither am I.”

She reached over him and turned out the light.


Aaron Grayum’s work has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, The Colored Lens, and Potluck Magazine. He writes and makes art in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and family.

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