Whose children are they then?
Dr. Subramaniam, the director of the Genetics & Fertility Institute, was polite and professional when he broke the bitter news to me. "We are very sorry, Mr. Halsbeth. But I am afraid that your sperm is simply not suitable for our donor program."
Not suitable? Based on their brochures, I would have thought that I was the perfect candidate: 6' tall, blond hair, blue eyes, 140 IQ.
"We will test the second sample you just gave us, to be absolutely certain," he continued, "but the lab results for the first sample are quite conclusive: you are, unfortunately, completely sterile."
"Sterile? That's impossible. I mean, I have..."
I stopped myself and completed the sentence silently in my head: ...three children!
Or at least, till now, I thought I did. My wonderful wife had given birth to them and naturally I had assumed they were mine.
I tried a different tack: "What could be the cause of that? Could I have an infection or something?" I hadn't felt ill when I came into the clinic, but I certainly did now.
"No," he said, with a sympathetic shake of his head. "It appears to be a congenital condition. Again, we are very sorry."
Not as sorry as I was.
Somehow I managed to drive home without running over a pedestrian or cutting off a cop. My wife must have been in the process of changing clothes because she was buttoning her blouse as I entered the living room. A slight breeze blew in from the open back door. "You're home early," she said breathlessly.
"We need to talk," I said as I sought the comfort of my favorite overstuffed chair.
"Okay," she replied, sitting down on the matching sofa across from me. I tried not to stare as she demurely crossed her sexy legs. Even when she was home alone, she liked to wear short skirts, and she wore them well.
I explained to her that a fellow Mensa member had suggested that I donate some sperm like he did, that I had had mine tested, and that the results came back negative.
"What does that mean?" she asked with genuine concern. "Are you sick?"
"What it means," I replied grimly, "is that Billy, Karen, and Jason are not my children. Whose are they, Jill?"
She stared at me for a moment, seemingly as perplexed by this development as I was. "I always assumed they were yours," she said at last. "I mean, you always had the best shot at being their father. Wouldn't it be best for all of us to simply go on as if you were?"
Well, I had to admit, she was right about one thing: if I hadn't been shooting blanks, I certainly could have gotten her pregnant. Our sex life has always been, well, lively. Over the years, I have probably squirted enough semen into her delightful vagina to fill the gas tank of my Camry. But obviously I wasn't the only one servicing her.
And as a professional scientist, I have learned that you must sometimes be dogged in your pursuit of the truth. "Whose are they, Jill?"
She shrugged. "To be honest, I don't really know."
She caught me off-guard with that one. I'm not sure what answer I expected, but not that it was an overly difficult question. But still, I persisted. "Whose might they be, Jill?"
"All right," she sighed. "If you insist."
She sat, deep in reflection, for a surprisingly long time. Then she confessed: "Well, for starters, Brad, James, or Carl could be the father of any or all of them. They've been fucking me for years."
My three closest friends.
As I digested this, she continued: "Nine months before Billy was born, you were working at Calvert's, right? Remember Kevin Johnson? That guy you worked with there and thought was such an arrogant jerk? He's another possibility. Oh, and of course Mr. Kelly, your old boss. Sometimes I think he sent you on out-of-town trips just so he could spend the night with me."
Now that she mentioned it, I had often wondered why he sent me to attend what seemed to be pointless meetings in out-of-the-way places. There were never any direct flights and I always had to spend the night in a cheap hotel with a lumpy mattress and scratchy sheets.
"Nine months before Karen, we were living on Red Creek Lane, so Adam Campbell, Sam Thompson, Harry Fieldman, or Bob Franklin could be her father," she said, ticking off the names of our former neighbors, one by one, on her slender fingers.
I still had fond memories of hanging out with those really friendly guys. Every Saturday, one of them—and it was a different one each time—would invite me to join him in going someplace to do something fun, like to see a football game or the latest Hollywood action flick. We never really did anything together as a group, though, because the other three were always too busy doing something else.
"Oh, I almost forget Herb Cornhauser, that sweet old man who lived across the street."
Jesus, that guy was like seventy-five years old!
"Do you remember when we had the basement finished so that you could have the home theater system you wanted? Was that before or after?"
"Before," I said. The same three-man team that installed Brad's system in two days took nearly a month to install mine, giving me one flimsy excuse after another for the delay.
"Ah," she said, the wheels clearly still turning. "Do you happen to know if your brother has the same problem with his sperm?"
"I don't know."
Then she giggled. "I almost asked the same thing about your dad, but that would've been a stupid question, wouldn't it?"
I could only nod my head in agreement.
"Nine months before Jason, well, you had gotten me that membership at the fitness center as a not-so-subtle hint that I had gained a little weight." From the tone of her voice, I could tell that she was still a little peeved at that. "I tried all four of the personal trainers there, to see which one I liked best, but their names would mean nothing to you. You never met them."
"I see." I may have never met them, but I had paid for the one she liked, $40 per session, three sessions per week, for more weeks than I care to recall. I even encouraged her to start back up with him as soon as she could after Jason was born—and she did.
"And you very helpfully plotted a two-mile route for me to jog that took me right past a fire department station house. Maybe eight or nine possibilities there. I kinda lost count after awhile."
It did always take her an awfully long time to run those two miles, but I just assumed that she ran at a very slow pace. The fact that she was always flushed, sweaty, and out of breath when she got home and went straight to the shower, merely confirmed my initial assessment that she was woefully out of shape.
"That was also about the time that you had the satellite dish installed."
"Right." Four hundred channels seemed like a good idea at the time.
"And the pest control guy was coming by every month to spray for ants."
"Oh, yeah. The ants." Those ants had been driving me crazy, so I had opted for Premium Service.
"The funny thing is, though," she said, with a seriously puzzled look on her beautiful face, "I made everybody wear condoms—except you, of course." She attempted a smile.
Just then, the phone rang. She got up to answer it. My eyes watched her go. Damn, she was still a hot babe, even after all these years.
She brought the handset to me. "It's for you, honey."
It was Dr. Subramaniam. "Mr. Halsbeth, I have very good news. We have received the lab results from your second sample, and I am happy to inform you that your sperm is perfectly normal. It seems that the lab techs made a careless error with your prior sample. We deeply regret any distress this may have caused."