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 It was difficult enough to get a doctor’s appointment without the man running late.
“I’ve a busy day myself, Doctor,” Marie told him when she finally hurried in to the consulting room. “The tales I could tell you of the Skibbereen branch—you wouldn’t want to keep your savings there is all I’ll
say. I’m due there in the hour you see, so I know what busy means.” She smoothed the creases on her skirt and nodded to Delaney to indicate that the niceties were over and it was down to business for the pair
of them. There were plans to be made and while she might have preferred a woman doctor, or at least somebody who she mightn’t bump into in the lo-
cal shop, Delaney was a good man and, now he had shaken off the drink, he’d be discrete. “I need to talk to you about thermometers,” she said. “I’ve a little strategising to do, you see?”
She had been taking her temperature in bed at night for a good while now, plotting values on a piece of graph paper she’d brought from the office while Brian brushed those great horse of his teeth in the bathroom down the hall. She kept the paper in her bedside table, withdrew the thermometer and read the measure- ment quickly, with a rustling of covers, so that she would know if the time was right. 40 to 41 weeks, the books said was the correct stretch of time for it but
she wanted it from the man himself, the doctor here, to check her calculations. She had her own estimation of the right night circled in her pocket diary.
There was no way she could ask Brian about a thing like that. He had a way about him with the cows, so they said in the vllage, but she was no heifer and, whenever she broached the subject of a child, the poor man would be purple and stammering with the thought of it and she’d not get a right word from him. Better it was sprung upon him.
Marie brought the paper from her bag, smoothed it flat on the doctor’s desk and explained her calculations.
“We’ll likely only get one shot at a child, God willing,” she told him, “and I’ve done my research. If we’re to have the one only, the prospects for an August child are something awful at school. It’s a September baby I’d want doctor, though, at a pinch, October might not be so bad. They get a little boost, so I’ve heard, from the older ones, the October babies. It drives them on, you know, the competition.”
“It’s not an exact science, Marie,” Delaney said, lean- 47
ing back in his chair. “Though there’s some truth to plotting your menstrual cycles.” He saw the stiffening of her smile at the incursion of the body into their talk. Delaney found himself clicking his pen and stilled it, looked at Marie carefully now, the neat stripes of the business suit, the expectant forward lean of her in the chair. “You know, I’m no psychologist, Marie,” he said, “but you might go a little easy on yourself here. Child development’s as much about the genes, so they say, as the environment. Nature and nurture together, they reckon. My own younger boy, Finn—he’s a July birth- day and he’s doing very well in —”
“I’ve no wish to disrespect a medical man, doctor,” Marie said, putting her hands on her knees, “but you’ve enough of the genetic head start there, I’d say, your boys having doctors for parents. He’d not be lacking for brains, your Finn. You know my Brian well enough, now don’t you?” She raised her hands, the palms open, her look a question.
Delaney felt himself colouring and shook his head, not sure whether the flush he felt was from her flat- tery or the disparaging bird-like way in which she tilted her head, bright-eyed in enquiry. He was a good man, Brian O’Donovan, right enough and, when the doctor was still drinking, they’d shared a pint and a story in O’Connor’s bar often enough but even Brian’s mother, had she still been with him, would not have described the poor man as a dazzling wit. “He’s a fine man your Brian, and a damn good farmer too from what I hear,” he said. “Did he not have a bull win at the county show last year? You’ve a solid, healthy specimen for a man there too, I’d say. So it’s the tim- ing of the thing that’s concerning you is it? Well ...” He looked down again at the paper in front of him, “you might be on to something here.”
With the date fixed—or at least Delaney’s idea of a date, “a window” as he called it, in mid December— Marie drove her way through the townlands and out, beyond, to the national road that led to Skibbereen, ignoring the jackeen in his low slung car, flashing his lights and weaving behind her. Let him wait. She had some serious thinking to do and had not come this far to be put off by some fool in a rush.
Her mind was on the job still while she sat at Davey Scanlon’s desk in the Skibbereen office. “And do you have the last quarter’s balance sheets here for me, Davey?” She’d asked him, as he sat, shame-faced on
Term Dates
John herBerT

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