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Second in Command

The next day, the red spots refused to spread, and the fever subsided. The day after that, the fever and spots were gone altogether. To me this was a very good sign: I had cured Quinn. To my wife it was a sign that our child must be ailing from some other undiagnosed disease. "I want to take her to the hospital," she said.

The language of parenthood is encoded. When a mother says to a father, "I want to take her to the hospital," she is really saying "We are all going to go to the hospital, and if you whisper even a word of complaint, you will have proved yourself for all time a man incapable of love." Maternal concern is one of those forces of nature not worth fighting.

Off we went to find a hospital. There we were greeted by another smartly dressed doctor, who was even more self-assured than the first. He took one look at Quinn, laughed loudly, and said, "Not chicken pox."

Tabitha looked pleased. "Then what are these?" I asked, pointing to the faded spots on Quinn's forehead.

"Insect bites," he said.

I handed him the spray and asked why the doctor had instructed me to apply it to chicken pox.

"I don't know. This is sore-throat spray. Who told you your daughter had chicken pox?"

I gave him the whole story and handed him the two pages of prescriptions, which, as it happened, had the name of the doctor who had written them on top. This provoked only more laughter. "Dr. D___," he said, "he doesn't know anything about children's medicine."

"You know him?"

"He's my golfing partner." He was still laughing; this was the best joke he'd heard all day.

"Is he a good golfer?"

"Very! He spends very little time working."

On the way home in the car, the family spirits could not have been higher. Quinn was cured -- or as good as cured -- and well, nestling up against her mother. I was back on the end of the bench. And there, with my incompetence in dealing with matters critical to my child's survival fully exposed, I was once again well loved. Some sort of natural order had been restored.

Michael Lewis is a father of three in Berkeley, California. He is also the author of Liar's Poker and Moneyball.

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