Excerpt from Sarah's Laughter

"So when am I going to have a grandson?" her father asked when she returned to the living room. The television was muted for another commercial.

"When God decides to give you one," Sara replied.

"Oh, don't give me that. You're not married to God, you're married to a-" Again he stopped short of saying it. "What's the matter with him?"

"There's nothing the matter with him."

"I thought colored people were well hung. Is that a myth?"

Sara controlled herself, but her anger was rising. "Dad, I'm leaving. I'm not going to listen to you making racial slurs about my husband."

"I wasn't making a racial slur about your husband," her father said, backing off a little.

"What were you doing?"

"I was just expressing my frustration."

"Well, you should find another way to express it."

"Personally, I like the guy. I think he would have made a great baseball player. Dominicans have fast hands, so they play well in the infield."

"Where do the Irish play well?"

"We play well everywhere."

"Then why haven't there been more Irish baseball stars?"

"There've been hundreds of Irish baseball stars. What do you think Babe Ruth was?"

"I don't know. Was he Irish?"

"Of course he was. All the big stars were Irish," her father asserted forcefully, "until they started letting colored people into the game."

"I didn't know that Joe DiMaggio was Irish." Remembering how in the old neighborhood an Italian boy had confided to her that when he grew up he wanted to be a white man, she realized that she had given her father an opening.

But her father didn't take it. He only said: "There were some good Italians, but all the big stars in those days were Irish."

Her husband would have pointed out that the big stars now were Latinos, but she didn't know enough about baseball to make the case. At least she had distracted her father from putting the blame on her husband for their inability to have a child.

"I have to go," Sara said, hoping for once to get off lightly.

"Where are you going?" her father asked. He always tried to stop her from leaving with the implication that she had nothing better to do than to take care of him.

"I'm going home. And then I'm going to a party."

"Where?" Her father acted as if she were a teenager needing his permission.

"In the Bronx. Marcelo's family is celebrating Reyes."

"You mean Epiphany. If you don't watch out, you'll end up speaking their language."

"I already do. Te amo, papa, pero a veces puedes ser muy dificil."

"I understood that. You don't think I did, but I did."

"Well, in case you didn't, I said I love you, Papa, but at times you can be very difficult."

"I know," he admitted. He gazed at the muted television sadly. "I miss your mother. At times she was a pain in the ass, but I loved her. I still love her. And I'm still mad at God for taking her away from me."

"I'm sorry," she murmured, softening.

"If I bug you about giving me a grandson, it's only because it would make me so happy."

"I understand. I'm doing everything I can." She hesitated, and then she said: "I'm probably going to have surgery."

"Surgery?" He looked alarmed. "What for?"

"To correct the problem."

"What problem?"

"I keep telling you," Sara said patiently, "it's not Marcelo's fault we can't have a baby. They tested him, and he's fine. It's my fault. I have endometriosis."

"What the hell is that?"

She decided not to go into the details since her father was squeamish about feminine matters. Once, while looking for a contact lens she had dropped in the bathroom, he had spotted it on top of a carton of tampons, and he let her retrieve it, afraid to touch the carton. "It's an obstruction inside me that stops me from getting pregnant."

"How did it get there?" her father asked as if he were ready to kill whoever was responsible for it being there.

"It grew there."


"They don't know why."

"Well, why did it happen to you?"

"I ask that question over and over." She had not only asked the doctors, but she had also asked God. "And all they can say is, it happens to a lot of women."

"Is it like cancer?"

"No. It won't kill me. But as long as it's there, I can't get pregnant."

Her father puffed on the cigar, thinking. "How do you know your doctor's right?"

"I don't know. But I have faith in her."

"Your doctor's a woman?"

"She's one of the best. She treats the wives of a lot of famous people."

"That doesn't mean she knows what she's doing. I think you should get a second opinion."

"I already did. In fact, she's my fourth opinion."

Her father flicked the ash off his cigar, missing the ashtray. Ringer raised his head, twitching his ears as if some ash had landed on him. "You know what I think? I think those doctors are taking you for a ride. It's all about money. They don't give a shit about you."

"The doctor I have now cares about me."

"Aw, I don't believe it. And how could a woman possibly be a good doctor?"

So much for getting off lightly. "Dad, you're entitled to your opinions. If you think women aren't good for anything but waiting on you, then I'm not going to argue with you. But at some point I may stop waiting on you."

"You wouldn't do that to your father."

"Don't push me. I have my own problems to worry about."

Her father took a swig of beer and shifted his foot, which disturbed the cat.

Ringer finally sat up and yawned and then looked at her father expectantly. No doubt the cat had canned tuna or fresh flounder on his mind.

"I still think," her father said, ignoring the cat but not facing her, "that if you and your husband do what normal couples do, you'll have a baby."

"Just like that."

"Yeah. Just like that."

"All right. Then you can help me."

"How?" he asked, looking puzzled but interested.

"You can pray every day to the Blessed Mother and ask her for a miracle."

"Oh, you don't need a miracle to have a baby."

"Most women don't. But I do. So will you pray for me?"

"Sure," he finally said. "She owes me one."