“You don’t need to be here,” Emma said.

“Why don’t I need to be here?” I asked. “We talked about this. I want to be in here for the delivery. You want me to be here for the delivery. I don’t want to miss it.”

“You’re not going to miss it,” she said. “Didn’t you hear the doctor? The contractions aren’t nearly close enough together. Which means I am not going to move this baby out of here anytime soon. There’s plenty of time. Go.”

“I don’t want to,” I said. “Isn’t there anything I can get for you? Water? Flowers? Water for flowers?”

“Justin. You need to go now. Don’t you have a victory party tonight to plan?”

“I don’t have to go, you know. I can stay here and read you that Dark Money book or something.”

Emma shot me a cold, hard glare, the kind that I only usually get when she finds out that I’ve gotten the soy nut butter at the store instead of peanut butter, even though soy nut butter tastes better and it’s more considerate to have in the house in case we ever have someone with peanut allergies visiting.

“Why don’t I go and see if they have everything ready for the victory party,” I said.


“Justin!” Polly said. “What are you doing here? I thought Emma was going into labor?”

“She is,” I said, “but she’s not very far along. And she kicked me out. She’ll text me if the contractions get too close.”

“This is so exciting,” Polly said. “Do you have a name picked out for him?”

“We’re still arguing about zher name,” I said.

Polly looked up to the ceiling and mouthed something, which I think was “give me strength” but might have been “don’t forget the bunting.” I decided to go with the latter.

“It’s a boy, Justin,” she said at length. “Emma told me already. You’re having a boy. This transgender stuff is fine and all, but you need to not go around pretending your baby is transgender. It’s off-putting.”

“If we were in Sweden, nobody would say anything,” I said.

“We’re in New Jersey. Gender roles still mean something here. Anyone catches you using those weird pronouns with your own baby boy, they’re going to go after you. And why would you want to make your newborn baby a political target before he’s even out of diapers?”

“That’s a good point,” I said.

“You bet it’s a good point. Okay, look. The party is going to run on rails. I hired a great local band, we’re having an open bar, and we arranged a safe space for the Sanders voters. “

“That’s very thoughtful of you,” I said.

“I even used one of the recipes you sent, the pudding with the fair-trade cocoa and the almond milk. It’s actually quite tasty. Florence went to Costco to get the juice boxes and the organic animal crackers, and I think we have enough security blankets.”

“You’re always on top of things,” I said. “I might as well go back to the hospital.”

“You need to tell me the name,” Polly said. “No joking around. It’s not Justin Junior, is it?”

“Never even considered it,” I said. “We’re not going to set him up in the patriarchy just yet. Emma wanted to name him after her dad, but his name is Richard, and I convinced her that we didn’t need to make things worse for him by putting the word ‘rich’ in his name when he was already going to be in the one percent.”

“Okay, seriously. Do you have a name yet, or not?”

“No,” I said.

“Go back to the hospital and think of one, then.”


“What are you doing here?” Emma asked.

“Polly kicked me out of the event,” I said. “She’s got everything organized. I thought I could just hang out here or something.”

“Can’t you go campaign?” she asked. “Go to the polling places and shake people’s hands or something.”

“I tried that,” I said, “but turnout is really lousy. And it’s kind of humid. And there are Trump voters out there. I don’t think it’s a good idea. Polly suggested we could use the time to finalize the baby’s name, and I thought that was smart.”

“Right now, the baby’s name is Percocet. Okay? We can have this discussion later. You can’t stay here if all you’re going to do is hover and argue with me over baby names.”

“The party doesn’t start for two more hours,” I said. “Look, I’ll just sit in the corner over there and download some baby apps on my phone.”

“Justin, I love you, and I think you’re going to be a great father, but all you’re doing right now is irritating me, and I don’t want to ruin the childbirth experience for you by screaming at you for two straight hours because you won’t go away.”

“Be sure to text me if the contractions start coming closer together,” I said.

“Tell the nurse I need more Percocet,” Emma said. “Like a fistful.”


“What are you doing here?” Polly said. “I thought you were going back to the hospital.”

“Emma kicked me out again,” I said. “She said I was being irritating.”

“She’s very perceptive.”

“Okay, fine. Look, is there anything I can do?”

“Have you thought about working on your speech?” she asked. “I mean, you know, actually practicing it? You can go out in the alley, and nobody will bother you.”

“It doesn’t smell so nice out there,” I said.

“Justin, I swear to God, I really don’t need you in here right now. I’ve got local media to deal with and lighting to worry about, and I think one of the Bernie Bros might have accidentally eaten a peanut.”

“I keep telling everyone, you can’t be too careful with those,” I said.

“Go. Somewhere. Come back in an hour.”


“What are you doing here?”

I looked up from the Tastykake rack at the WaWa. It was Emma’s dad, Richard.

“I didn’t have anywhere else to go,” I said.

“My daughter kicked you out,” he said. “I’ve been there. She’s very self-sufficient, you know. It’s a nice trait to have, but sometimes she takes it a bit too far.”

“I guess,” I said. It wasn’t a trait that I had, so I really couldn’t say anything.

“We haven’t had a lot of time to talk, you and me,” he said.

“Guess not,” I said.

“You know, I understand that you’re having a victory party across the street, and that there’s an open bar. You want a drink?”

I wouldn’t normally drown my sorrows in alcohol–not when Butterscotch Krimpets are available–but it felt good to have someone who wanted to talk to me, even if it was my father-in-law. So we left the WaWa and headed back to the party. Richard went behind the bar and poured us both a drink. I didn’t ask what it was, but it had a kick.

“You know,” he said, “I wasn’t too sure about you.”

“I understand.”

“But, all this? You running for Congress? I’m impressed. Most of you millennials don’t really understand national service. I know you’re not ever going to enlist”–Richard had served four years in the Army–“but you could be doing a lot of other things, and you’re trying to make your country a better place. That says something good about you.”

“Thanks,” I said, and I meant it.

“Don’t mention it. Having said that–your dad wasn’t around a lot when you were growing up, I take it?”

“He was at Merrill Lynch when I was little,” I said. “He didn’t start the hedge fund until I was fifteen. So he was always in the city, even on weekends. He tried to make time for me, but it was hard for him.”

“And you’re going to be in Washington a lot,” Richard said. “And when you’re there, there’s always going to be a temptation to stay there. You know? When I was in the Army, sometimes I wanted to stay on post rather than go home. But I always went home, because that was the important time, seeing my babies. You understand?”

“I’m going to try my best to be a good father,” I said. “I know it’s going to be hard.”

“You think you do, but you don’t,” he said. “But you will. And you’ll get better at it, every day. I’ve got confidence in you.”


I stayed at the party, and made my speech, and accepted the Democratic Party nomination for the House of Representatives seat for the 13th District of New Jersey. An hour later, I went to the hospital, and my son, Richard Charles Fairchild, was born at 3:30 in the morning. It was a pretty good day. I knew I had gone the distance, and now there were new challenges ahead.


Check out the previous installments:
Last year:
Week Forty-Nine:The True North
Week Fifty:The Garden State
This year:
Week Four:The Brain Trust
Week Six:The Snow Day

Week Seven:The Coin Flip

Week Eight:The Wicked Witch
Week Eleven:The State Dinner
Week Twelve:The Maple Leaf Rag
Week Thirteen:The Large Endowment
Week Fourteen:The Transit Authority
Week Fifteen:The Ten Forty
Week Sixteen:The Bachelor Party
Week Seventeen:The Refugee Crisis
Week Eighteen:The Taco Bowl
Week Nineteen:The Trending Topic
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