This is another installment in the Glinda chronicles. It is (sort of) a follow-up to my story entitled, "Two Sheets, One Blanket". Many of you have asked when Glinda Baldrich will meet the O'Neill baby. I started out to write that, but I quickly discovered that it wanted to become something more than that—I hope you don't mind.
Even though it fits in with the Jack/Sam story line, this is very nearly a Glinda-exclusive story.
Meeting the Bean—
Why did it seem that elevators always took longer going up than down?
Glinda freely admitted that she was no lithe and willowy Twiggy type, but neither was she a hulking Amazonian. She'd stepped alone into the elevator, with her newest purse over one shoulder and a cumbersome paper gift bag suspended by its handles from her wrist. Hardly enough bulk there to slow down the works.
And yet the contraption failed to ascend as speedily as she would have liked, seeming to meander from floor to floor instead of blazing a trail upwards as Glinda had expected it to do. Frowning, she resisted the urge to glance at her watch. Such an action would have demonstrated a high degree of impatience, and Ms. Baldrich had worked diligently throughout her life to rid herself of such undesirable attributes.
She settled with staring at the numbers blinking on the overhead display.
Garage One. Main. One.
She'd entered the complex through the third level of the underground parking garage. And the floor she needed was the sixth. Nine floors. Nine floors between herself and the object of her visit.
Fighting the urge to sigh, Glinda adjusted the gift bag's braided ribbon handles on her arm, smoothing the sleeve of the brushed cotton jacket she had chosen specifically for this visit. It really hadn't been much of a contest, as her only other jackets were linen or silk—non-launderable and stiff—and that certainly wouldn't do.
Not for a visit such as this.
Because, even though the prevailing image she had of the baby in her head was still that of a rather unimpressive lima bean, she had wanted her first introduction to him to be special, somehow. She'd imagined that her first encounter with him would be an auspicious yet comfortable occasion—not a moment filled with doubt as to one's attire and the suitability of it for the activities certain to be connected to such a moment.
Of course, she might be over-thinking the matter. As the Colonel's due date had neared, Glinda had found herself growing increasingly anxious—hoping that all went as smoothly as possible. Although the doctors and specialists had concurred that the tests showed nary an abnormality, the realist in Glinda knew that nothing was completely set in stone. And she had been present when certain events had occurred that had rendered the pregnancy's complete benignity significantly less than likely.
But the General had sounded so assured the night before when he'd called. So cheerful—his frantic journey to the medical center two evenings prior notwithstanding. So calm.
So—for lack of a more lofty term—happy.
Apparently, his introduction to his son had allayed any concerns that the General had previously embraced regarding the prospect of becoming a father again. And though the actual birth had not been the experience he and his wife had both been hoping for—Glinda had heard in the timbre of his voice that he could not have been more satisfied with the result.
Even if he'd neglected to tell her such pertinent statistics as the child's weight and length and name. Things that all civilized humanity knew were necessary tidbits to relay in a phone call announcing the birth of a child.
But then, for all his other admirable qualities and attributes, the General was, still, a man. Allowances had to be made.
With a discordant ding, the car came to an unceremonious stop, and Glinda was shaken from her thoughts as she frowned upwards at the now-stationary numbers.
Another passenger. Perhaps one wanting to visit the fourth or the fifth floor, thus necessitating another stop before she could reach her goal. The prospect of that cast a shadow on her otherwise anticipatory mood.
As the metallic doors prepared to open, Glinda stepped exactly one length to the right, in accordance with the socially established norm of elevator etiquette. Averting her gaze from the doors to the number pad directly in front of her, she studiously did not make eye contact with the newcomer—an action also well within the realm of proper manners. Those embarking the lift did not normally enjoy being observed doing so, just as those already within the confines of the car did not normally expect to be greeted.
And yet, the newcomer felt it necessary to do so, anyway. As he crossed the threshold of the car, he lifted raised a hand in her direction with a cheery, "Good morning."
Glinda nodded, her eyes still locked on the '6' button, illuminated on the control panel. She did not feel the need to peruse all and sundry of the masses of humanity. She experienced fully enough of that particular joy day to day at the Pentagon.
She did, however, catch a glimpse of him as he bent towards the button display. Recent experiences over the past few months had taught her that it did, indeed, pay to be observant. If he proved to be a mass murderer or kidnapper, she could at least be prepared. She tightened the fingers of her right hand on the straps of her purse, mentally running through certain—items— within it that might be of use in such a circumstance.
But the new passenger didn't seem threatening, as much as tacky.
He was a mature man—at least as old as Glinda herself. Certainly old enough to know better than to clothe himself with the style in which he was currently attired. Denim trousers, and a gaudy shirt with some sort of vintage automobile printed on it, along with palm trees and—Glinda squinted to be sure she was seeing correctly—hula girls. The shirt wasn't buttoned, but instead flapped open to reveal a tee-shirt underneath—a tee-shirt upon which was emblazoned a fish with the words 'Carp Diem' underneath. And then—she just had to know—her natural curiosity winning the day as she looked downward towards his feet.
Sandals. With. Socks.
Oh, the humanity.
She felt her eyes widen as he angled forward, crowding her with his large frame as he leaned to see the control panel. He bypassed the numbers all together and clicked only the 'door close' button—the action being completed with a bit of a flourish. Then, apparently satisfied, he straightened, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans. Rocking back on his heels, he turned slightly to look at her. And his look was—quite frankly—appraising.
Glinda wasn't quite sure how to take that.
She moved her head just enough so that she could fix her gaze upon him, raising an eyebrow in a manner that had never failed to put men just such as this one firmly in their place. "As you see."
"Maternity." He nodded jovially, apparently immune to the power of her eyebrow. "Me too."
What possible business he could have on that particular floor, she didn't know. Nevertheless, etiquette decreed that she proffer something in way of a response. "Oh."
The elevator jerked into action, and Glinda breathed a tiny, demure sigh of relief.
Glinda adjusted the ribbons on her forearm again. "No."
"Great-something or other?"
Glinda felt her curls bobble as she turned her head to the side to face him fully. "Pardon me?"
"You know—great-niece. Great-nephew." The man shrugged, scratching absently at his nose with the back of his index finger. "Folks our age are into the 'greats', now, aren't we? Not so much the normal nieces and nephews, anymore."
"I hardly claim to know what your age is, sir."
He pointed at his cranium, where graying hair had gathered around the back of his head and over his ears, leaving the top quite remarkably shiny. "Chrome dome doesn't give it away?"
Glinda harrumphed. "Male pattern baldness is hardly as indicative of age as it is of genetics."
He smiled, revealing even white teeth. "That would be from my mother's side. Her father was bald as a coot."
"I see." Surely that would be enough of an answer. She glared at the panel above the door, where the counter had just turned from 'two' to 'three'.
"Although, I've always wondered what a 'coot' was. It kind of sounds like 'racoon', but surely the shortened version of that word would be 'coon' and not 'coot', and they're really hairy, aren't they? So it wouldn't make sense for that to be the origin of the phrase." He took a quarter turn towards her. "I've always preferred to refer to myself as 'taller than my hair', but my daughter says that's not as funny as 'follically challenged'. She has a thing about political correctness. Likes to make fun."
Despite her annoyance, Glinda found herself asking the question that popped into her head. "Why can't you just say 'balding'?"
He sucked in a breath between those admirable teeth, his eyes narrowing on what could only be termed a twinkle. "Because that would be boring."
"And boring, apparently, is bad?"
He waggled his eyebrows. "Well, I do have a reputation to maintain."
Glinda refused to ask exactly what it might be. She returned her attention to the panel in front of her.
"So, you must be here visiting friends."
Glinda nodded stiffly. "My boss's wife has recently given birth to their first child."
The man gestured towards the bag over her arm. "And you brought them a present."
"As you can see."
Oh, heaven—bless the ignorant. Her voice carried a little more patience as she corrected him. "A quilt."
"Ah." He said, as if he completely understood the distinction. He returned his attention to the numbers over the door. "I think we're here."
And with that, the elevator came to a jarring halt, and Glinda waited awkwardly for the doors to open.
Proper elevator etiquette would have decreed that the man take a full step either backwards or to his left in order to accommodate Glinda's disembarkation, but he did neither. He simply stood, hands in his pockets, as she sidled past him and stepped into the hall. As soon as she was clear of the car, he followed her.
With a tepid, but polite, smile, Glinda inclined her head and prepared herself to continue on down the hall, but the man's ready grin stopped her.
"See you around." He nodded, waved, and then—incredibly—winked at her.
"I doubt it." Glinda turned her body halfway and peered at him along the length of her nose. "But just so that you know, a 'coot' is a water bird that has a unique white spot on its forehead. In Old English, the world 'bald' did not mean 'hairless' as much as 'streaked or marked with white'. The bird then, with its white markings, was considered 'bald'—or 'marked'. The phrase has been around since the mid-fifteenth century, when it was employed in a work entitled 'Chronicle of Troy'."
"Wow." The man chuckled. "Thanks. I'd really wondered about that."
"Well, sir," Glinda inclined her head graciously. "I've always believed that the sharing of knowledge is its own reward."
And with that, she pivoted on her sensible heel and stalked down the hall.
And just as a quick afterthought: I have personally given birth to five children. I have taken those moments and tried to portray them as realistically as possible, while still maintaining some measure of entertainment value. While we're not delving into the nitty-gritty of birthing (and/or the aftermath) in this story—all of this is drawn directly from my own experiences with the process. I hereby apologize if I destroy any of your carefully constructed delusions.