It was midnight when they finally saw the sign, “Bethlehem 5 Miles.” The Traffic was backed up, advancing at a snails pace. Joe sat at the wheel of their beat up pick-up with a calloused hand on Mary’s knee.
“Try to relax Mary, hopefully there’ll be a room, and we can call a Doctor. Getting back the highway to get to a hospital will take twice as long in this traffic.”
Mary nodded, perspiration beading on her brow, “Joe another ones coming, I don’t know how much longer we have.”
As the contraction came, Mary’s face contorted with pain. Her breathing was rapid and her teeth were clenched. She gripped her husband’s hand with all the strength of the vice on his workbench.
“He’s coming Joe! We need to find a place now.”
“Ok, baby, hold on. I’m gonna pull off right up here, there’s a sign for a motel.”
As they rounded the bend to the motel, their fate was spelled out in flickering red neon, “No Vacancy.”
“Mary, Stay put and let me go talk to the desk,” said Joe as he parked the truck in front of the office, “Maybe they have a cancellation.”
Mary didn’t respond, she sat with her hands on either side of her belly, eyes shut, awaiting the next contraction as Joe ran into the office.
A slovenly, unshaven man reclined behind the desk with his feet up, idly watching television. “Excuse me Sir,” said Joe. My wife and I need a room, we were hoping that you had a cancellation.”
Without peeling his eyes from the television the man replied, “You and the fifty other people that were here before you.”
“You don’t understand, my wife’s having a baby- right now- in my truck.”
The clerk looked at Joe. “Look,” he replied, “I’ll call a Doctor, but were full. I’m sticking my neck out already. The rooms are packed. If the fire inspector stopped by for a visit, he’d close this place down.”
“Sir, please!” Replied Joe. “What can I do? She can’t have the baby in my truck.”
The clerk let out a conceding sigh, “Alright, alright. The best I can do is set you guys up in the barn at the back. It’s not much, but it’s clean and dry.”
“Thank you, Sir,” said Joe. “We’ll pay whatever you ask.”
“Yeah, yeah,” replied the clerk waving him off. “Drive around the back and get her in there, I’ll get the Doc on the phone, take some blankets and pillows off that cart.”
Joe turned and ran out the door to the truck, tossing the bedding into the back.
“Mary!” exclaimed Joe as he slid behind the wheel. “They don’t have room, but he said we could stay in the barn out back.”
“Hurry Joe,” Mary pleaded. “My water broke.”
“Ok baby, just hold on- the Doctors on his way.”
Joe skidded to a halt in front of the barn and ran around to his wife’s door. He snatched up the bedding, and led her into the barn. Finding a clear spot in the center, he spread out the blankets and gingerly sat his wife down, supporting her back with pillows. Mary winced in pain as another contraction began, “Joe, the Doctor, I can’t wait.”
“Ok honey,” he replied. I’ll run to the front and see if he’s here yet.”
Mary nodded, “Hurry,” she said.
Joe sprinted to the front of the building, but there was no ambulance, and no cars turning into the parking lot. He waited anxiously for another few minutes before he turned and ran back into the front office. The clerk was just hanging up the phone. “I finally got through,” he said. “Docs on his way, you don’t need to be standing out there, I’ll send em’ your way when they get here.”
Joe murmured his thanks and ran back out of the door to the barn. As he rounded the back of the motel, with the barn in view, the clear high pitched cry of a newborn baby pierced the night. Joe stormed through the door of the barn.
Mary lay back on the pillows, her hair matted to her head with the sweat of the labor, cradling the baby.
“It’s a boy,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks. Joe fell to his knees next to his wife. He reached out and gently stroked the baby’s cheek.
“I know,” was his only reply.
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