Bourbon Penn 1

A Happy Family

by Nathaniel Tower

After 36 hours of labor, my wife gave birth to a boot. It was brown leather. Size six. At first, I was sure this meant she had been unfaithful, but looking at her sweaty and poop-covered body, I knew better than to question her.

So I asked the doctor privately if we could do a paternity test. He made the mistake of announcing the results in front of my wife. Sure enough, the boot was mine.

“Congratulations,” the doctor said.

“Why didn’t you think it was yours?” my wife asked.

I told her that no one in my family had ever fathered a boot before.

“You can’t be sure of that.”

She was right. I couldn’t be.

“You could be a little sympathetic, you know. I did just give birth to a boot.”

She said it with that wet-dog, post-labor look.

“C’mon, it’s made of flexible leather. It’s not like it had spurs,” I retorted, instantly knowing my words were both a triumph and a mistake.

I quickly changed the subject by asking the doctor if the boot would grow. It was too small to fit either of us.

He said he didn’t see why not.

We took the boot home the same day, buckling it carefully into the car seat even though it didn’t fit properly. We waited on naming it. We had names picked out. Isabella for a girl and Noah for a boy. Both names were my wife’s choice. I wanted Hansel or Gretel. She thought those were stupid names. Neither of her names seemed fitting for the boot. She said that it didn’t look like an Isabella or a Noah. I said she just wanted to save those names for a more human-looking baby.

“How did the doctor not know we were having a boot?” I asked as we set the boot into the crib.

My wife blamed me at first. “This is because you made me eat all that red meat.”

“It’s probably because of all those damn vegetables you ate. I’m surprised the kid wasn’t a celery stalk.”

“That would’ve been better than a boot,” she muttered.

I felt a bit bad that she said that right in front of the boot. I shooed her out of the room to give the boot some rest. On the way out, I couldn’t help but think that the custard walls clashed with its skin.

After a long talk in the other room, we decided to love the boot as we would any other child. Then, I realized that we had forgotten to turn the baby monitor on. I rushed into the nursery to check on the boot. It was a little stiff when I arrived, but it seemed just as alive as it had been before.

As all new parents do, we proudly sent out photos of everything our little boot did. Some people had the nerve to ask for their shower gifts back. I wanted to tell them to go to hell, but my wife said we couldn’t, just in case we didn’t have a boot next time around. I told her I wanted another boot. After all, what the hell was the point of having one? You couldn’t wear it, and you sure couldn’t sell it. It was nothing more than a decoration.

“We could fill it with soil and put a flower in it,” I told her one day while we were changing the boot.

“It’s our child you’re talking about.”

I could tell she meant business, but I figured she would be closer to it since she had carried it in her belly for nine months.

For the next few weeks, it was nice because the boot was so quiet. It barely made a noise and required almost no changing at all. We found our lives a lot more manageable than all our friends and relatives had warned us it would be. But then, we started to think that maybe all that silence wasn’t good, that our boot wasn’t developing like a normal baby should. We called the doctor, but he didn’t really know what to say. He seemed surprised that we had kept the thing. Were we supposed to put it up for adoption?

We decided that the boot would be better off if we picked a gender and gave it a name. Eventually we called it Sam because we weren’t quite sure if it was a boy or a girl. We thought it would be best if the boot decided when it got older.

After a year, the boot still wasn’t talking or walking, and it wasn’t eating very much. It didn’t respond to Sam, so we tried Noah, Isabella, and Hansel, but it didn’t seem to like any of those names either.

“I think he’s depressed,” my wife said, convinced the boot was a boy.

“Well, what are we going to do? We can’t very well take him to a therapist,” I replied, conceding the gender of the boot.

“Maybe we should make a sibling for him,” she said with a seductive smile.

That night, we tried our best to make a sibling for the boot. Not knowing much about making shoes, we just did what came naturally.

A month later, my wife showed me the positive pregnancy test. We went and showed it to the boot, but he just sat in his crib and stared. We figured he just didn’t quite understand what we were driving at, but we went ahead with our plans.

All of the doctor’s visits went well, and even though we were supposed to be hoping for a boot, I could tell that my wife secretly wanted a little girl she could call Isabella. I thought she was being selfish, that we needed to hope for the best for our firstborn, but I knew better than to say such things, especially after last time.

When the ninth month rolled around, my wife went into labor. We packed up the car with all the necessities, strapped our little boot into the car seat, and sped off to the hospital. The labor was much more strenuous this time around, and the doctor finally said that my wife needed a C-section. We had both been hoping for a natural childbirth, but the doctor insisted.

The next hour was quite intense, but the doctors successfully delivered our second born. My wife fainted when she saw it, but I beamed with pride. It was beautiful.

The boot finally seemed happy when we introduced it to its new baby brother, a healthy size six foot. I was happy too, until they ran away together.

Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online lit magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has appeared in over 50 online and print magazines. A story of his, "The Oaten Hands," was named one of 190 notable stories by storySouth's Million Writers Award in 2009. His first novel, A Reason To Kill, is due out in July 2011. Visit him at