Planning and Organization
What Jim Didn't Tell Pete
by CE Fox
"Pete, if you're not gonna help me, at least don't get in my way, all right?" he snapped irritably.
"Jim, honey, wake up!"
Something wasn't right. Pete never called him "honey". Meatball, yes. Honey, no. Jim slowly realized that he wasn't on Pico Boulevard, and there were no giant green mice on a crime spree in L.A. He opened one eye and kept the other buried in the softness of his pillow. "Whazamatter?"
Jim glanced at the clock. 4 a.m. "'z'not either time. I got 'nother hour and a half." He shut his eye.
"Jim, not that time. It's time."
Jim's eye popped open. It's time. His other eye sprung open.
He lunged to his feet without bothering to throw the sheets off. They tangled around his legs and he fell to the floor.
"Honey, are you all right?" Jean asked, calmly sitting up. Thanks to Jim, she didn't have to worry about throwing the sheets back. He'd dragged them all off onto the floor with him.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," Jim assured her. He kicked and thrashed to untangle himself, in the process knocking his ankle bone against the bed frame. "Ouch!"
"Jim, calm down! Where's the stop watch?"
"On the nightstand. I'll get it." He crawled on his hands and knees and fumbled for the light, banging his knuckles against the edge of the table in the process. The brightness stabbed into his eyes. He squeezed them shut and fumbled for the stopwatch. It fell off the table. He heard it bounce on the floor but when he was finally able to open his eyes, he couldn't find it. "Oh, man. Where is it? Where is it?" He frantically dug through the pile of sheets and found it. He squinted at it, then looked at Jean. "Okay, tell me when to start."
"Wait a minute," she said, her teeth clenched, then she sighed. "Okay."
Jim felt himself go pale but he pressed the button. They waited, not moving, and ten minutes later, she said, "Oh, here it comes again!"
"It's time!" Jim shouted, as if Jean hadn't already told him. He threw the stopwatch onto the bed and staggered to his feet. "My list . . . where's my list?"
"On the chest of drawers."
He ran toward it, forgot about the sheets on the floor and went down again. After a protracted wrestling match with his percale opponent, he untangled himself. He wadded up the sheet and threw it on the bed. Then he snatched up the list. "Okay, okay, I've got it." He took several deep breaths, ran his hand through his hair and tried to get his other hand to stop shaking so he could read what the list said to do.
"Suitcase." He looked around wildly. "Where is it?" he shouted.
"By the door, where it's been for the last two weeks," Jean said. She calmly got to her feet and slipped out of her nightgown and into a sundress.
"Okay, okay. Got it. Now, Jean, stay calm. It's all a matter of organization, right?" He stared at her, biting his lip.
Jean smiled. "Yes, honey. You're doing fine. What's next on the list?"
"Oh, the list," he blurted, looking down. "Uniform . . my uniform. Okay, I can do that." He put the list back down on the dresser and fumbled out of his pajama bottoms and into his uniform pants. Then he stuffed his arm into the wrong sleeve of his shirt. He yanked it out and managed to get it in the right sleeve. He even managed to button it up right the first time. As he was stuffing the shirt tails into his pants, Jean had another contraction.
"Ooh!" she cried, sinking down onto the bed.
"Jean!" he yelled, and ran to her. "It's okay, breathe, honey. Breathe."
"I am breathing," she muttered through clenched teeth. "Maybe you should."
Jim flinched a little at her tone, but he took a deep breath or two. He didn't relax until she did. "Better?"
"Yes, but we need to get a move on."
"Right," Jim said, and leaped to his feet again. He grabbed the suitcase. "Okay, all ready."
"Jim, we need to call Margaret. And my mother. And you need to put on shoes."
Jim stared blankly down at his bare feet. "Oh, yeah. Of course." But instead he patted his pockets and looked vaguely around the room. "What'd I do with the list?"
"On the chest of drawers," Jean said patiently. She smothered a smile at her completely rattled husband.
"Can you call your mother?" Jim asked as he crossed the room to retrieve the list.
"Yes, Jim. In fact, I'll call both of them. You just finish getting ready." She picked up the receiver on the phone beside the bed and dialed.
He started to look for socks, but a glance down at the paper made him realize he'd need his duty weapon, which wasn't on the list. He grabbed it and stuffed it in his case. By that time, Jean had hung up the phone. "Get hold of them both?" he asked.
"Yes, and the hospital too, so they know we're coming," she nodded, then grabbed her belly. "Ooh, Jim, they're coming closer! We better get going."
Jim's stomach suddenly clogged with butterflies. He stuffed his feet into his shoes and without bothering to tie them, he grabbed the suitcase in one hand and Jean's elbow in the other and they made their way to the car. He tossed the suitcase in the backseat, then helped Jean settle into the front seat. "You okay?"
She nodded. "Just hurry."
He practically ran around the car and threw himself behind the wheel. "Please God, let it start," he prayed out loud. The old sedan had a way of failing them at the most inopportune times, but today it behaved and roared to life on the first try. Jim started to back out.
"Jim! The garage door!"
He slammed on the brakes just in time. "Shoot," he muttered, then jumped out and raised the door. He returned to the driver's seat and tried to smile. "That wasn't on the list."
She laughed feebly, then bit her lip again.
Jim jammed his foot against the accelerator and they shot out of the garage so fast he almost didn't make the turn onto the street. With squealing tires, he jammed the car into drive and took off.
"Jim," Jean said, resigned.
"The hospital's the other way."
He shamefacedly stopped at the next intersection and did a u-turn. "That wasn't on the list either."
Jim was never so glad to see a hospital. He turned on his blinker, then cast a nervous glance at his wife. She had her eyes shut, head back against the seat. "Honey?"
"I'm fine, Jim. Just resting while I can."
"We're here." He turned into the parking lot and up to the emergency department entrance.
A nurse was actually waiting by the curb with a wheelchair. "Mr. and Mrs. Reed?"
"Yeah, I'm Mr. and she's Mrs. I mean, I'm Jim and she's Jean. We're having a baby. I mean, she's having one . . . or I mean, just about to."
"I can see that, sir." She took over helping Jean out of the car, and suddenly Jim felt like a fifth wheel. He grabbed the suitcase out of the backseat and hurried after them.
He started to follow them into the elevator, but he was waylaid by an officious-looking woman behind the admitting desk. "Mr. Reed, not so fast! I need you to fill out the admitting forms."
He looked helplessly at Jean, but she smiled reassuringly. "You can come up and see me when you're finished."
"I love you," he said softly as the doors closed off his view of her, then turned and took the stack of papers. He eyed them sourly. "Jimmy'll be in college by the time I get these filled out."
The woman behind the desk said, "Jimmy? You know it's a boy?"
Jim's face grew warm. "Oh, uh, no, not really. I guess I just hope it will be."
She raised an eyebrow at him but didn't comment further. He shuffled the papers against his chest, picked up the suitcase, and walked over to a couch by the wall. He sat down. Looked blankly at the stack of papers. Took a deep breath and tried to blink away a sudden sting in his eyes. It was happening. Sometime today, he would be a father. And Jean a mother. All that responsibility. It wouldn't just be the two of them anymore. But it would be better because they were about to become three.
As long as everything went okay. He sniffed, blinked, then looked at the first line on the form.
Jean Elizabeth Reed. He wrote carefully, then paused, staring at her name.
Just keep her safe, Lord. Just keep her and my son safe.
Two hours later, Jim had finished the paperwork, moved the car to a parking spot from where it blocked the front entrance, seen his wife settled into her room, talked to her doctor, and was feeling somewhat better about things. Although now time weighed heavily on the back of his shoulders. He fidgeted, got up and walked around the waiting area, then sat back down, only to jump back to his feet again. He needed to do something. He needed something to occupy his mind. Like work. And it was close to shift time. He returned to Jean's bedside. "Honey, I think I better get to work. The doctor says it'll be a while yet, and if I stay here worrying about you, they'll be putting me in a hospital bed. In the psych ward."
Jean smiled. "Poor Jim. This is harder on you than me, I think."
"Well, not really. If you want me to stay, I can. I really mean that."
"No, Jim. Go ahead. I'll call, or have the hospital call, when I need you."
Still he hesitated. "It's just that I'd rather not waste a day off now when I can take one once you come home, when you'll really need help with things."
"I understand, Jim. Really. Go."
He smiled at her, then leaned down and gave her a gentle kiss. "You're one in a million, know that?"
"So I've been told. Now scoot."
Jim walked backward out of the room, wanting to leave but not wanting to. He bumped into the doorway on his way out. He staggered, straightened up, gave her a smile and a wink, then walked down the hallway. Worry tugged relentlessly at him, but he replayed the doctor's reassurances over and over. Everything looked good. Everything was proceeding as normal. He took a deep breath, buried his worries in the back of his mind, then headed downstairs to the car. He thought about how excited Pete would be to hear the news, and his step got a little lighter. He glanced at his watch. Plenty of time to get to the station, since he was already dressed.
Heck, maybe he'd even have time for a shoeshine.