Fiction: Through His Eyes

By: Sarah Wilson Gregory

Content Warning: Allusions to SA/CA and topics of abortion.
(While having lunch, a pair take in a growing protest outside.)

The man holding the sign waved it so enthusiastically he nearly knocked the hat off another of his fellow protesters. Which, if you think about it, was a better alternative to having one's head whacked purposefully and with force–an act Philip had also witnessed today. He’d expected the nearby officer to intercede that one with his own show of force, but if the uniformed officer noticed at all, he seemed to give the action little heed.
He turned to Monica sitting beside him, her head was down–brown hair curtaining around her downcast face. When the protestors had first arrived during their breakfast, her eyes had been so wide and full of shock that she’d not managed a single bite of her food. 
“Eat,” he demanded. ”Eat.”
But her face only paled and she tucked her chin to her chest and shut out the rest of the world–Philip likely included.
He huffed to himself, stuffing another bite into his mouth as he glared across the street at the mob.
It’s not like he didn’t agree with them. He did, of course. Children shouldn’t be harmed at any stage of life. But was all the fanfare and hullabaloo really helping anything? Protesting was all good and well, but even he didn’t really enjoy looking at the pictures they paraded around of dead children and mutilated embryos. And he knew Monica was likely feeling similarly. Though she was the type to dramatize, he reasoned. Delicate female sensibilities and all that.
Monica tried to feign interest in anything else but her plate of food. He caught her peeking glances at the decor around the little snack bar more than once. Fishing nets, antique whaling clubs, lobster traps and other various aquatic amenities hung precariously from the ceiling all across the room, the deep wood paneling adding to the cozy, antiquated, and quirky ambiance of the establishment. It was why he’d chosen it, even despite the meager menu. He’d thought it might help lift her spirits or distract her. The protestors had come by only half an hour after they’d been seated by the window and Monica’s discomfort was still visible an hour later.
Today was supposed to be her high school graduation. He knew it meant a lot to her and that she’d worked hard in school, especially as her condition grew more apparent. She was almost eight months along now and the task of keeping up with schoolwork was becoming increasingly difficult. He could be an empathetic man. He encouraged her to get all that schooling out of her system before the baby came. There was no sense in her being bogged down with the weight of an education once the child arrived. She’d simply have to make the best of the situation.
He shoveled in another bite of sausage as their waitress came by, her gaze lingering just a moment on Monica’s lowered head. Her eyes flickered to the window and the commotion outside and back to Philip.
“Sorry,” she apologized. “We get protesters a lot these days now that they shut down the clinic across town. They seem to congregate here, trying to do the same thing to the clinic up the street.”
“Hmph,” was all Philip said. He focused on his plate of food, blocking out the scene outside the window all together.
“Can I get you anything, miss?” The waitress turned to Monica, her New England accent thick and her smile warming as she focused her attention on the girl.
“Yes,” Monica stammered, her voice half trembling. “Bathroom, please?” 
The three words were the most she’d strung together all morning, Philip counted. 
Monica stood and the waitress noticed her round stomach at once, a smile curving her lips followed by a flash of confusion, no doubt from the girl’s youthfulness.
“In the back,” she responded, gesturing behind her toward the other side of the tiny snack bar. You could just make out the two gendered doors, the female a flowery mermaid and the male a stocky pirate. 
As if the whole gender debacle these days wasn’t confusing enough, let's go and throw pirates and mermaids into the mix, Philip pondered with an eye roll.
Monica excused herself and strolled her and her growing stomach in the direction of the mermaid adorned door, leaving Philip and the waitress alone. The protestors rallying cries pierced through the windows in muffled roars.
“I wish I had another table for you,” the waitress said conversationally, tucking her pen and notepad into the pocket of her apron.
“Not a problem,” Philip replied unbothered, taking the last bite off his fork and pushing the empty plate forward with a clatter. “They’re doing God’s work. It’s a sin to harm a child. That’s what I teach my flock.”
The waitress nodded her head noncommittally but did not leave.
“Sure, sure,” she placated. “I just hate that your daughter has to see all that. Being pregnant herself, that must be hard.”
Philip rose from the table, wiping at his nose and clearing his throat as he dug for the wallet in his back pocket. He stole another glance out the window, his glare settling on a sign displaying a grotesque aborted fetus. Such innocence, he contemplated, running a hand through his thinning, gray hair. 
He retrieved a twenty from his wallet and tossed it down onto the table next to Monica’s untouched plate.
“My wife will be just fine.” He emphasized the word just as Monica came shuffling back around the corner. 
If he noticed the shock on the waitress’s face, he did not show it. Or care. Instead, he put a hand on Monica’s shoulder and stirred her outside, her body stiffening at his touch. The waitress watched as the girl lifted her hand to her stomach as they passed the protestors. Her head still hung down as Philip led them, offering encouragement and nods of approval to a few. 
Fanfare and hullabaloo aside: He still did not believe in harming children.

Sarah Wilson Gregory (she/her) writes from the foothills of Appalachia in her beloved state of Kentucky. She has three feral children and one mostly domesticated husband, and spends most of her free time writing, reading, or dreaming. Gregory is a recurring columnist writing on Appalachian life and culture in her hometown newspaper, The Sentinel Echo, and her short fiction works have been selected for publication in various literary magazines across multiple genres.