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Second in Command

I told her everything that had happened, and as I did, tears welled in her eyes. Mistaking their meaning, I could not have been more pleased with myself. I assumed she was moved by my performance. At this difficult moment in our child's life, when she would naturally look to her mother for comfort, her mother was unavailable. Plucked from the end of the bench and sent into the game with just seconds on the clock, I'd been told to take the final shot. I'd hit nothing but net.

I waited for what I was certain would be a curtain call. Instead, there was only silence. I could see from her face that she wasn't merely upset; she was irritated. She walked over to the sink and banged around some dirty dishes. With whom was she irritated? I wondered, neglecting the important truth that if you don't know who your wife is pissed off at, it's you.

"Why are you upset?" I asked. "It's all taken care of."

"I just wish I had been... here."

"But why?"

"If I was here, I could have asked the questions."

All of a sudden, my questions weren't good enough. How would she know? She banged the dishes around a bit more, and then said, "Did you ask the doctor why he was sure all these medicines were the right ones?"

"Uh, no." Of course I hadn't. He was the doctor.

"Did you ask him why, if it is chicken pox, she's had these red spots before?"

"She has?"

"Did you ask why they are only on her face?"

Upon review of the videotape, my three-point shot was nullified, the team went down in defeat, and I was sent back to the end of the bench. I was unable to answer even one of the questions that a genuinely caring parent would have thought to ask. "The doctor said that the spots would spread to the rest of her body by tomorrow," I offered.

"I think we ought to call another doctor," she said, then swept her child up in her arms and took her away to whatever place mothers take their children when they don't want their husbands to follow. Once they'd left, I quickly, and for the first time, read the instructions on the medicine. The first two bottles I selected said, chillingly, "Not for children under six years of age." The bottle I'd believed to contain a chicken pox ointment proved to be a sore-throat spray. The gunk I'd been told to apply to the pox itself was a strange dry powder that was impossible to apply to anything, unless you happened to have Krazy Glue. Left alone with her father, our child stood no chance of survival.