“Mrs. Armstrong Counts her Chickens,” by Christina Dalcher

Dec 20th, 2015 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

“Congratulations, Mrs. Armstrong, you’re having twins.”


“That’s right. Now if I could see you in about ten weeks?”

“What do you mean ‘twins’?”

“I mean two babies. We don’t know whether they’re fraternal or identical yet, but…”

“That’s wonderful, Margie!”

“Be quiet, Harold. I don’t see what’s so wonderful about twins. You see, Dr. Myers, I wanted multiples.”

“Mrs. Armstrong, twins are multiples.”

“No, I mean I wanted more than two. Like triplets. Or fourplets, even.”

“We call those quadruplets.”

“I don’t care what they’re called. The pamphlet said there was a high probability—a high probability, mind you—that I would have multiples. Two isn’t a multiple.”

“Yes it is.”

“Margie, honey, isn’t two enough?”

“Harold, I’m trying to get this whole baby thing over and done with in a single pregnancy.”

“Mrs. Armstrong, I assure you in thirty weeks you’ll be the proud mother of two healthy babies.”

“I don’t want two healthy babies. I want multiples.”

“Well, Mrs. Armstrong, we can’t control the outcome. Some in vitro patients never get pregnant at all. Some have only one baby.”

“And some have more. It says so right here: ‘With in vitro fertilization, many women will conceive multiples.’ That’s what I want. Multiples.”

“Honey, stop badgering the doctor.”

“Shut up, Harold. If he’s a real doctor, he can fix things. Isn’t that right, Dr. Myers?”

“Fix things?”

“That’s right. Fix the problem. Just put another one in there.”

“Mrs. Armstrong, let me explain. We’ve gone through three rounds so far. We didn’t get results the first couple of times. But, as they say, third time’s a charm.”

“What charm?”

“It’s a saying, Mrs. Armstrong. Now, how is October the second for you?”

“Again with these small numbers. Can’t you make it the third? Or the fourth?”
“Margie, it doesn’t matter what date the appointment is.”

“Harold, I wish you would stop interrupting. The doctor and I are trying to solve the problem.”

“What problem, Mrs. Armstrong?”

“The problem of how to get another one in there. How long will that take?”

“I’m afraid we can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“You see, Mrs. Armstrong, we’ve fertilized all your viable eggs. There aren’t any more to insert.”

“Can’t you get some?”

“That would be difficult, given your present condition.”

“Some doctor you are.”

“Margie, dear, you’re being obstinate.”

“When I want your opinion, Harold, I’ll ask for it. Besides, what do men know about female issues? Dr. Myers is about to explain how the procedure will work.”

“The procedure, Mrs. Armstrong?”

“Exactly. The procedure.”

“Which procedure?”

“The one to get more eggs. Now, let me check… I have this Tuesday free. No, wait, that’s my bridge club day. Wednesday is booked solid. Tennis, lunch, tea. Thursday I’m at the spa for six hours, so that won’t do. How about Friday morning? I can squeeze you in at ten o’clock.”

“Mrs. Armstrong, I’m not exactly sure what you want me to do.”

“Get more eggs.”

“Get more eggs?”

“That’s right.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why the hell not? Don’t I have more eggs? You told me I was still producing them.”

“Yes, I did, Mrs. Armstrong. But you’re not producing them while you’re pregnant.”

“So we’ll use donor eggs.”

“Margie, honestly, don’t you want your own?”

“Shut it, Harold.”

“Mrs. Armstrong, we’ve already made the transfer. Transfers, actually.”

“Well, if that’s the only issue, the solution is simple.”


“Yes, simple. Take out the eggs.”

“Embryos, Mrs. Armstrong. They’re not eggs anymore.”

“Eggs, embryos, what’s the difference?”

“Quite a lot.”

“I don’t see how it makes a difference at all.”

“Mrs. Armstrong, if I understand you correctly, you want an abortion. Is that right?”

“An abortion? Of course not. I simply want you to remove the bad eggs and put some good ones in.”

“Embryos, Margie.”

“Harold, don’t talk about things you don’t understand. You sound like a fool.”

“He’s right, Mrs. Armstrong.”

“About what?”

“About the embryos.”

“I’ve just realized. Friday isn’t good either. How about Monday? But only if we can do it before eleven.”

“Do what?”

“Take out the bad eggs.”

“But there’s nothing wrong with them.”

“Yes there is. You just told me there are only two in there.”

“Mrs. Armstrong, are you positive you want to do this? I can’t promise another success.”

“You call this success? Twins?”

“Well, yes, I’d call it a success.”

“Margie, honey, at fifty years old, I’d call it a goddamned miracle.”

“No one asked you, Harold. And watch your language. Can we do Monday at eight? That way I can get to my Rotary Club meeting on time.”

“Monday at eight. It will have to be a medical abortion. We only do surgery on Tuesdays.”

“Removal. I’m not having an abortion.”

“Of course, Mrs. Armstrong. I meant medical removal.”

“Excellent. Now, as far as the next transfer goes, how soon can we start?”

“The next transfer?”

“Yes. The next transfer. The one with the multiples. You are paying attention, aren’t you, Doctor?”

“Um, yes. We should wait at least two months.”

“Two months?”

“It would increase your chances.”

“By how much?”

“I honestly don’t know.”

“You don’t know? Did you go to one of those foreign medical schools?”

“I went to Harvard.”

“Harvard? Well, they didn’t do a very good job.”

“Harvard’s a good school, Margie.”

“How would you know, Harold? Now, Doctor, I’m pencilling you in for Monday at eight.”

“Mrs. Armstrong, I really must advise you—”

“Oh my goodness! Look at the time, Harold. If we’re going to make it to the baby store by ten, we need to go.”

“Mrs. Armstrong, I’m confused. You’re going to the baby store? So you’re not coming on Monday?”

“Of course I’m coming on Monday. Harold, where did you put that circular? They’ve got a sale on triplet strollers. And we’ll need to stop by the Mercedes lot and trade in the sedan for something larger.”


Defenestration-Christina DalcherChristina Dalcher is a linguist, novelist, and flash fiction addict from Somewhere in the American South whose work appears in Zetetic, Maudlin House, and After the Pause. She prefers to count her chickens after they hatch. Find her at https://christinadalcher.wordpress.com

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