©1995 by JJPP69
Balance. It was almost as if it was the very glue that held the universe together, keeping all of the pieces from spinning off into infinity and leaving only a black hole in it's wake. Balance. As old as Mother Nature, perhaps what she really was herself. The mercurial flow of events that prevented both predator and prey from ever inheriting the earth.
There were temporary deviations in the equation of course. A river temporarily dammed by a landslide of mud and debris would soon overcome the obstructions and return to it's trek towards the sea, and balance. Up and down. East and west. Male and female. Action and reaction. Good and evil. Yin and Yang. They were all just opposing sides of this phenomenon known as balance.
Nineteen-Fifty-Five was a year not unlike any other before it, with the struggle for balance occurring thousands of times every nanosecond. The forces of good ended up a little ahead of the legions of evil by the end of the year though, for reasons unknown and probably unquestioned by mere mortals. But that was all to change, and in an attempt at achieving balance, evil would gain momentum and overshoot the null mark by quite a large margin. At one minute after midnight, on the first day of the year nineteen hundred and fifty-six, Edward Eugene Engelhart was born, and the pendulum began swinging in the opposite direction.
1956 Thomas Eugene Engelhart paced the gray and white speckled tiles of the waiting area adjoining the delivery room, leaving a trail of spilt coffee behind him as he reached in his pocket for another Camel cigarette. He fumbled around in his coat for his old and worn Zippo lighter, again spilling coffee on the floor next to the overflowing chrome ash tray stand. These shiny spots of brown overlapped the already dried dull ones from the previous fifteen cups, and if connected dot to dot would complete a trail from the coffee machine, past the ashtray to the steam heat radiator and window overlooking the parking lot and back again.
His wife Edwina had been in labor for over fifteen hours. He had been in this very room twice before with the births of Janice two years ago, and Jonathan eighteen months before that. Neither delivery, from the first contraction to the last push, had taken more than six hours. They had said they would get easier and shorter each time, he thought to himself as lit his fiftieth smoke since arriving at the hospital. He looked up at the round Bulova wall clock for the millionth time. Eleven fifty nine. Any second now, the horns would begin to honk. The banging of pans and the shouts of the inebriated would begin to permeate the air, only to be overridden by the occasional leftover fireworks from the Fourth of July. And he was stuck in this shit hole of a hospital, with a third child he couldn't really afford on the way, with only the smell of Lysol and faded out Christmas decorations to keep him company. What he wouldn't do for a drink right now. Hell, a dozen drinks, it was supposed to be New Year's Eve, right? An adult Engelhart hadn't had a sober New Year's Eve in at least five generations to be sure. Shit. So much for the rhythm method. The thought reminded him of a joke he had once heard at the local barber shop.
"What do you call a couple of people that uses the rhythm method?"
"Got me Charlie", someone had replied while thumbing through a Look magazine.
No more sex with the ol' lady without a raincoat, that was for sure, no matter what. He would swear to God on that one right now. Little did he know he was soon to get his wish.
As Thomas Engelhart was pacing around in his pity pot, chain-smoking months off his life, a doctor and a team of nurses were trying to save his wife's. Dr. James D. McNally had been delivering babies for nearly 30 years, and never had he seen anyone hemorrhage so much, so fast. No one had expected to have to give transfusions during what should have been a regular, on schedule delivery. Especially to a healthy mother, who had given birth twice before without any complications.
By the time they could start giving her whole blood, her blood pressure was down to 65 over nothing, and she was losing it twice as fast as she was taking it in. It was too late for a Cesarean birth, the babies' head was already crowning. Mrs. Engelhart was nearing unconsciousness from loss of blood, but was still screaming non-stop between contractions. The doctors shouted for her to push again, just one more time, one really big push. She did as she was instructed, although she had never heard the doctor over her own screams and the pain.
It was as if she wasn't giving birth at all, in the normal sense of trying to expel something that would just as soon stay in it's comfortable surroundings of the womb. What ever was inside her, she had ceased to think of it as a baby, seemed to be trying to kick and claw it's way out, and only roughly in the direction of her vagina. She pushed and screamed, unaware that she was burying her fingernails into the back of the nurse's hands, drawing blood and actually snapping off some of the fingernails in the process. Even though parts of her had begun to pale from the loss of blood, capillaries in her face began to burst as she let out the end of her breath in one last primeval scream. The baby's whole body was pushed out into the doctor's hands, along with what must have been two pints of blood.
There was a short moment of eerie silence, as the doctor stared down at the seemingly normal newborn awash in a sea of crimson. The two nurses who had been holding Mrs. Engelhart down began to realize their patient was no longer trying to rip their hands off at the wrist. The silence was soon broken as the assitant who's duty it was to keep track of the pulse and breathing looked up and slowly shook her head. As if on cue, without any assistance from the doctor, the baby began to wail.