They stand there together in the yellow light surrounding the frozen custard stand, waiting for their order. Marshmallow chip for her, peanut butter banana for him. He holds the baby, dressed in a cloth diaper and nothing else. It's a hot night, but she thinks about how her father would be irate to see his grandson in nothing but a diaper out in public. It doesn't happen often, really. And it's usually something cute, something with a pattern or made of a nice fleece. Man, those diapers have got to be hot, she thinks. But the baby doesn't seem to mind. Doesn't know any better, anyway.
While they wait, the fire engine pulls up on the side street, parks in the lot of the abandoned gas station. The firemen walk over, four of them, and the first one asks him if he's in line.
"No sir," he replies like he always does to folks in uniform. The fireman goes up and orders. She takes a long look at them, trying to see if they're from the station on the next block.
When the second one orders, that's when she knows, his voice, his face. He was there, in her living room six months back, but bigger looking, in gear that time, with that big duffel bag over his shoulder. Here, he's slight, narrow shouldered and his eyes are a bit on the buggy side. Doesn't look nearly so intimidating as he did pushing the coffee table aside to get to her daughter, limp and non-responsive in her husband's lap. The other ones, she didn't get a look at their faces, but he was there. He was the one who took her daughter's vitals and said he'd been a medic at the children's hospital, that he'd take her in if it were up to him. Of course, she had thought as he said that. That's why we called you.
They have the custard in hand in the waxy yellow paper cups. "Is he," she starts, "the scrawny one?"
He knows what she means and nods. "Yeah, he was there. Most definitely."
"The medic, the one who told us to go, right?"
She thinks about the next round of men who showed up, the ones with the ambulance, the ones grinning at each other talking about their recent jeep purchases and demanding, good-natured, why they were all just standing around, let's get this baby to the hospital. Baby.
They pull out of the parking spot, annoyed by the car in front of them with political bumper stickers expressing not just opposite views from theirs, but antagonistically opposite views. But she glances at the fire engine's number.
"Is that the house behind us?" he asks.
"I thought ours was 14."
"Who knows how they rotate."
"Yeah, and I don't remember what engine actually showed up that day." She takes a deep breath, an involuntary sigh, thinking about the spring filled with tests and that last doctor's appointment. All will be well, all manner of things will be well, she mumbles to herself.
They head down Grand in the dark. Conversation turns. The custard is the same as always, something from her early childhood of late nights and her father's hospital schedule and hot apartments. The spoon isn't right in her mouth, and she thinks to Carlos, how he suggested that they try spoons out before putting them on their wedding registry. Forks are forks, knives just have to cut, but spoons, they have to feel right. Funny how he's right. Glad it's just a plastic one. They pull up in front of the house just as the neighbors two doors down go in for the night, turning their porch light back on. He takes the baby in and she brings in a stray bag of groceries, canned goods she'd forgotten earlier that day. The house smells like fresh paint and she's happy again.