Home > The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman #2)(8)

The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman #2)(8)
Graeme Simsion

5

My mother’s Saturday night Skype call from Shepparton came through on schedule at 7.00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time; 9.00 a.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time.

The family hardware store was surviving; my brother Trevor needed to get out more and find himself someone like Rosie; my uncle appeared to be in remission, thank God.

I was able to reassure my mother that Rosie and I were fine, work was also fine and any thanks for my uncle’s improved prognosis should be directed to medical science rather than a deity who had presumably allowed my uncle to develop cancer. My mother clarified that she was just using an expression, and not submitting scientific evidence of an interventionist god, God forbid, which was also just an expression, Donald. Our conversations had not changed much in thirty years.

Dinner preparation was time-consuming, as the mixed sushi platter had a substantial number of components, and by the time Rosie and I sat down to eat I had still not conveyed the Gene information.

But Rosie wanted to talk about the pregnancy.

‘I looked it up on the web. You know, the baby isn’t even a centimetre long.’

‘The term baby is misleading. It’s not much advanced from a blastocyst.’

‘I’m not calling it a blastocyst.’

‘Embryo. It’s not a foetus yet.’

‘Attention, Don. I’m going to say this once. I don’t want forty weeks of technical commentary.’

‘Thirty-five. Gestation is conventionally measured from two weeks prior to conception and our best guess is that the event occurred three weeks ago, following the Roman Holiday impression. Which needs to be confirmed by a medical professional. Have you made an appointment?’

‘I only found out I was pregnant yesterday. Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a baby. A potential baby, okay?’

‘A baby under development.’

‘Right.’

‘Perfect. We can refer to it as the Baby Under Development. B.U.D.’

‘Bud? It makes him sound like a seventy-year-old man. If it’s a “he”.’

‘Ignoring gender, it’s statistically likely Bud will reach the age of seventy, assuming successful development and birth and no major change to the environment on which the statistics are based, such as nuclear holocaust, meteorite of the kind that caused the dinosaur extinction—’

‘—being talked to death by his father. It’s still a male name.’

‘Also the name of a plant component. A precursor to a flower. Flowers are considered feminine. Your name has a flower connection. Bud is perfect. Reproductive mechanism for a flower. Rosebud, Rosie-bud—’

‘Okay, okay. I was thinking that the baby, speaking in the future tense, could sleep in the living room. Until we can find a bigger place.’

‘Of course. We should buy Bud a fold-up bed.’

‘What? Don, babies sleep in cribs.’

‘I was thinking of later. When it’s big enough for a bed. We could buy one now. So we’re prepared. We can go to the bed shop tomorrow.’

‘We don’t need a bed yet. We don’t even need to buy the crib for a while. Let’s wait till we know that everything’s okay.’

I poured the last of the previous evening’s pinot gris and wished there was more in the bottle. Subtlety was not getting me anywhere.

‘We need the bed for Gene. He and Claudia have split up. He has a job at Columbia and he’s staying with us until he can find somewhere else to live.’

This was the component of the Gene Sabbatical that may not have been well considered. I should probably have consulted with Rosie before offering Gene accommodation. But it seemed reasonable for Gene to live with us while he looked for his own apartment. We would be providing for a homeless person.

I am well aware of my incompetence in predicting human reactions. But I would have been prepared to bet on the first word that Rosie would say when she received the information. I was correct by a factor of six.

‘Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.’

Unfortunately, my prediction that she would ultimately accept the proposition was incorrect. My series of arguments, rather than progressively breaking down her resistance, seemed to have the opposite effect. Even my strongest point—that Gene was the best-qualified person on the entire planet to assist her in completing her thesis—was rejected on essentially emotional grounds.

‘No way. Absolutely no way is that narcissistic, cheating, misogynist, bigoted, unscientific…pig sleeping in our apartment.’

I felt that accusing Gene of being unscientific was unfair, but when I started to list Gene’s credentials Rosie went to the bedroom and shut the door.

I retrieved George’s card to enter it into my address book. It included the name of a band: Dead Kings. To my amazement, I recognised it. Due to my musical tastes being formed primarily by my father’s record collection, I was familiar with this British rock group whose music had been popular in the late 1960s.

According to Wikipedia, the band had become active again in 1999 to provide entertainment on Atlantic cruises. Two of the original Dead Kings were actually dead, but had been replaced. George was the drummer. He had accumulated four marriages, four divorces and seven children, but he appeared, relatively, to be the psychologically stable member. The profile did not mention his love of beer.

When I went to bed, Rosie was already asleep. I had made a list of further advantages of Gene living with us, but decided it would be unwise to wake her.

Rosie was, unusually, awake before me, presumably as a result of commencing her sleep cycle early. She had made coffee in the plunger.

‘I figured I shouldn’t be drinking espresso,’ she said.

‘Why?’

‘Too much caffeine.’

‘Actually, plunged coffee has approximately 2.5 times the caffeine content of espresso.’

‘Shit. I try to do the right thing—’

‘Those figures are approximate. The espressos I get from Otha’s contain three shots. Whereas this coffee is unusually weak, probably due to your lack of experience.’

‘Well, you know who’s making it next time.’

Rosie was smiling. It seemed like a good time to introduce the additional arguments in favour of Gene. But Rosie spoke first.

‘Don, about Gene. I know he’s your friend. I get that you’re just being loyal and kind. And maybe if I hadn’t just discovered I was pregnant… But I’m only going to say this once and we can get on with our lives: we do not have space for Gene. End of story.’

I mentally filed the ‘end of story’ formula as a useful technique for terminating a conversation, but Rosie contradicted it within seconds as I swung my feet out of the bed.

‘Hey, you. I’ve got writing to do today, but I’m going to kick your arse tonight. Give me a hug.’

She pulled me back to the bed and kissed me. It defies belief that a person’s emotional state could be deduced from such an inconsistent set of messages.

In reviewing my interaction with Rosie, I concluded that her reference to kicking my arse was metaphorical, and should be interpreted positively. We had established a practice of attempting to outperform each other at The Alchemist. In general, I consider the artificial addition of competition to professional activities to be counterproductive, but our efficiency had shown a steady improvement. Time at the cocktail bar appeared to pass quickly, a reliable indication that we were enjoying ourselves. Unfortunately there had been a change of ownership. Any alteration to an optimum situation can only be negative, and the new manager, whose name was Hector but whom we referred to privately as Wineman, was demonstrating this.

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