From Chapter 1
My story begins on a gray February evening when the Neanderthal from across the street comes bounding up the steps to our porch and bellows at Cindy and me, “So which one of you wants to get pregnant?”
The setting is San Francisco. The year is 1984. We’ve only just arrived home from work; Cindy hasn’t even unlocked the front door. The Neanderthal’s name is Sam. He moved into the house across from ours a few months ago with his friend, Roland. Cindy and I have often talked to Roland but this is our first conversation with Sam. If you can call this a conversation!
I glare at him and snap, “Couldn’t you say that a little louder?” He laughs and claps a hand to his mouth. Cindy snickers but I’m too annoyed to see any humor in this situation. Anyhow, Roland is the one I should be venting my wrath upon. Where is he?
Sam’s bulky body is blocking my view so I push him aside to look down the steps. And there’s Roland, clinging to the rail as if he hopes it will hide him. I shout, “Okay, Roland, what’s going on?” Sheepishly, Roland disentangles himself from the rail and comes up the steps to stand beside Sam. You couldn’t find two more dissimilar men. Roland is slight of build, blond, with fine pale features. Sam is dark, muscular, hairy, and everything on his face juts out—brow, cheekbones, jaw. Archetypal caveman.
Roland squeaks, “I’m sorry. I hope you don’t mind but I showed your letter to Sam.”
Cindy looks at me, her eyes wide. She murmurs, “It’s kind of cold on the porch here, don’t you think? Let’s go inside.” We all follow her into the house and she ushers our guests to chairs in the living room.
Cindy is my lover of five years. She’s a beautiful woman. Honey-golden hair, porcelain-doll features, figure like a model. But this is no dumb blonde. In only five years with her company, she’s risen from receptionist to assistant manager of the public relations department. And this is a Fortune 500 company we’re talking about here. She can be other things too that sometimes catch a serious person like me off guard: playful, impulsive, a practical jokester.
The four of us sit around the coffee table. Sam looks at Cindy and me and says, “Hope I’m not speaking out of turn but Roland and I discussed your problem—about wanting to find someone to get you pregnant.” I give Roland an icy look and he blushes. Sam continues, “Roland wasn’t sure he was—er—quite up to it, so to speak.” He grins again—he’s always grinning—flashing a mouth full of big white teeth. Sort of like Burt Lancaster, but not that handsome. He says, “So we thought maybe I could stand in for him. I mean, are you particular?”
Are we particular? Out of the corner of my eye, I see Cindy swallowing a laugh. She’s thinking, as I am, about the roller-coaster we’ve ridden over the past several months—hours of debate, last-minute doubts and mind-changing—to arrive at this very point.
I snap. “We are extremely particular.”
But Sam isn’t interested in me. He’s looking at Cindy who’s smiling at him in the vague, endearing way she has. He’s returning her smile with an eager expression that rather puzzles me. In this part of San Francisco when two people of the same sex live together, as Sam and Roland do, it’s a fair bet they are a “couple.”
“Sam, are you gay?” I ask.
.His eyelids flicker and he shifts his glance for just a second toward me. “I guess you could call me bi,” he says.
Cindy tells him, “It’s very important to us to have someone who’s willing to father the child and then just go away.”
Sam says, “No problem. Babies leave me cold. Well…other than the conceiving of them.” He laughs, a loud earthy laugh, those teeth flashing. He goes on, leaning back on one elbow and looking earnestly at Cindy, “I have good genes, if you’re worried about that. I come from healthy stock. Now Roland here, everyone in his family died of some disease.”
Roland looks startled.
Sam says, “Well, they died of something, didn’t they? The ones who are dead?” He laughs again and Roland looks confused. I’m beginning to think Roland is a bit of a dope. I wonder, not for the first time, how on earth these two got paired up to begin with.
But now my stomach is rumbling. I stand up and say, “Sorry but we do need to get started on dinner now.”
Sam asks, still looking at Cindy, “So what are the next steps? You’d like medical information, I guess?”
One thing Cindy is really good at is delivering an elegant coup de grâce. Now I watch her and wait for it.
But, instead, Cindy—still looking endearing—purrs, “Yes, of course, the medical stuff. But Sam, we don’t know much about you, do we? So we’d also like you to write up a complete description of yourself. Sort of a résumé of your life: family background, education, career, hobbies—that sort of thing.”
“Résumé?” Sam sounds as astonished as I feel.
She purrs on, “Yes, like you’re applying for a job. Which you are, of course.” Then she too stands and walks toward the door.
I see Sam and Roland exchange glances. Sam asks, “When do you want this résumé?”
“A couple of days will be fine,” Cindy assures him.
As soon as the two men leave, she swings around to face me and the laughter explodes out of her. “Diane—oh, baby—you should see your face!”
Her laughter is the final straw. Because, you see, our letter to Roland contained an unusually sensitive and personal request. Certainly not transferable to anyone else—and least of all to someone like Sam.