The baby gurgled and his mother cooed in response. The smile on Alison's lips was lovely, as long as you didn't mind that it wasn't directed at you.
"Especially considering all the extra treatments you'll have to go through if we stay here on Earth," Macomber said. "Not to mention all the possible complications from each one."
His wife's attention remained focused on the baby, as always. His tiny fingers tried to close around a few delicate strands of hair that draped past her face and across his forehead like a golden crown.
Macomber wanted to yell. He wanted to stand and throw something; to pick up the kitchen table with one hand and put it through the wall. The green digits on the microwave blinked to . A piece of hair got caught around the baby's finger, and he and his mother giggled together.
"I have to go to work," Macomber said. "Will you please think about it? They want an answer."
Alison finally looked up. Her usually sparkling brown eyes were flat and distant. "I'm not moving to the moon, Frank. If you're too scared to say 'no' to your boss, then you go right ahead and take the transfer. But don't you dare use my brittle bones as an excuse."
Macomber shook his head and the blood rose hot through his neck and cheeks. "That's not it. Just look at your father, sweetie; if we stay down here in Earth gravity for as long he did, your spine is just going to continue deteriorating ten times as f—"
"Yes, and as I've told you before, I'm fine with that. I'd rather end up bed-ridden than leave everything I know for some godawful ball of rock in the sky where we'd have to live underground all the time like rats. This is our home, Frank. I am not moving. This is who I am; it's genetics. And if you can't handle that, then maybe you should think about it, and give me an answer."
The baby was crying now. Alison looked back down and began to rock him, her consolations soft and gentle, as if the argument had never happened.
During his lunch break, Macomber sat with a sandwich at his customary table against the big bay windows in the company cafeteria. People walked past in twos or threes, but nobody waved or stopped to say hello.
Alison had been wrong. What scared him was not saying "no" to his boss. No; that wasn't it at all.
He put the half-eaten sandwich down and stretched with his hands behind his head, pushing his shoulder blades back as far as they would go. As he twisted his stress-taut neck first left, then right, Macomber imagined he could feel each of his vertebrae straining against each other like a parade of young bull elk, antler-locked and fighting against impotence.
Life would be so much better for Alison on the moon, he told himself. The doctor said the minimal gravity up there would be easier on her spine; she wouldn't have to worry about the hundreds of fractures that would certainly come if they remained on Earth.
Nor would she need to stress over who would feed her, dress her, clean her body when she was no longer able to walk, or about Macomber having to learn how to be a father all by himself when she was gone.
It would be better.