Fatherhood by Nicholas Kokiko and Jesse Gemberling-Johnson

Setting: It is September 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic has been in a state of “control” for the last six months with the invention of a Pfizer vaccine and increasing acumen of the healthcare industry for distribution and disbursement. Over the last six months, businesses have re-opened their doors to growing patron support and social gatherings have now become an accepted part of societal interaction. Due to the isolation of 2020-2021, many families conceived children and are now in early stages of parenthood, frequently despite a lack of preparedness. As a result, parenting courses are in high demand and increasing in popularity. Two years of decreased or nonexistent interpersonal engagement has left us all in a process of relearning what it is like to meet new people and be amongst friends. Jesse and Nick (the two main characters) are friends who met in a graduate school class in 2020 and have both recently had boys who are now almost 6 months old. Nick’s son is named Sully. Jesse’s son is named Jackson.

Wild World of Fatherhood (WWF) is a fatherhood support group that meets bi-weekly to discuss behavior, health and current trends of child education. A few weeks prior to this scene, the two discover that they’re in this class together. Never having met in person even after months of weekly Zoom calls, they were hesitant to confirm the person in real life is indeed who they knew online. These sorts of realizations have become common in a post-Zoom world and only add to the innate awkwardness of society collectively coming out from under a virtual rock. After a few classes together at WWF, Jesse and Nick have settled into socialization.

(The scene opens during an infant Heimlich/CPR portion of Class on infant mannequins, Jesse turns to his partner Nick)

Jesse: Dude, I feel like I am going to break my kid’s chest with these two finger compressions

Nick: I know, right?! Look at Bob; he is so smooth with that baby-flip move!

Jesse: I can’t wait to show Shannon what we learned today. She says I am not getting enough actionable skills from this class. Says I just use it as “bro-time” to leave her with the baby. I’m like: “What do you think we are doing?! Going on a bar crawl at 7:00am on a Saturday morning?!”

Nick: Bar crawls… can you imagine? I don’t think I’ve been to a bar in two years. As soon as it was safe again this little bundle of joy popped out. Now I feel like all I do is change diapers, heat up bottles, and sleep with one eye open in that damn rocking chair! I can’t wait until he gets bigger and we can start playing sports together. I’m averaging 10,000 steps a day walking around our neighborhood with that stroller but I can’t make it 50 steps without stopping because I’m terrified that he is choking, but turns out he’s just coughing. But every time he coughs, I’m convinced he has COVID. Vicious circle.

Jesse: Man, I have nightmares about that, I wish someone would have warned me it was going to be this stressful. My parents raised three boys- I don’t know how they did it! Gone are the days when siblings look out for one another and your kids can run around the neighborhood alone until it gets dark.

Nick: Yeah, I can’t imagine. Growing up, my mom would have a first aid kit right by the front door during the summer time. If I didn’t come home with a cut or bruise, she would suspect that something was wrong….Since COVID, all of us young parents in our neighborhood are suspicious of everything.

Jesse: Still?

Nick: Yea, when we get together for BBQ’s in the neighborhood, I feel like every parent has a fanny pack stuffed with disinfectant wipes, first aid supplies and allergy medications.

Jesse: I never remember kids having all of these allergies growing up.

Nick: Me neither, it’s crazy. (Flips the infant mannequin on its back and practices administering a COVID test in the mannequin’s nostril)

Jesse: I wonder how competitive colleges are going to be with all these kids the same age applying…if college is even a thing in 18 years…

Nick: Yeah, it’s going to be insane. Just listened to an episode on Pod-Daddy about that actually. They said we should all find weird niche sports for our kids to get into college on.

Jesse: I saw Penn just started a Fortnite team. Guess we’ve got that, squash, and curling to learn.

Nick: (sarcastically) Curling is legit!

Jesse: Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

Nick: Have you tried curling?!

Jesse: No, of course not.

(Both smile and get back to first aid techniques with the mannequins)

Class Instructor: That’s it for today, gentlemen! Thank you for your engagement and efforts, and as you all know, feel free to reach out at any point during the week if you have any questions. I’ll be on Zoom every morning if you want to drop in, no waiting room or password.

Everyone in class: Thanks, Carla!

(The class members pack up their notepads and belongings and begin exiting the conference room toward the door to the parking lot. Jesse and Nick walk outside together as the fathers move separate directions to their cars)

Jesse: Bob! Saw you with the rotation-moves of a master, nice work in there!

Bob: Oh, thanks. This is our third kid so thankfully haven’t had to do CPR on any of them yet. You’ll see after the first one you don’t get as freaked out as you used to. Pretty sure my middle kid was choking on a baby carrot last night and I didn’t even look up from the Phillies game.

Nick: Three kids?! Are you nuts?! We can barely handle this one.

Bob: And two dogs. Our house is a jungle.

Jesse: Legendary, man…Are you going to watch the Eagles game tomorrow? Nick and Julia were going to stop over and I was wondering if you and your wife (and three kids I guess) had any interest in swinging by? Assuming everyone got the vaccine.

Bob: We did yes, waited in line for three days but we got it. Appreciate the invite but actually, my wife’s family usually comes over for the games. South Philly Italians…they take over my house on Sundays…but they always cook something new and we have leftovers for the week so I don’t complain….My Dad is actually going to the game.

Nick: Does he live in San Francisco?

Bob: No, but get this: when the pandemic happened, his company told him he could work remotely until retirement in three years. Since my mom passed away a couple years ago, he had been living in our childhood house by himself….so he sold it, bought a giant RV, and now works out of the RV traveling to every away Eagles and Phillies game around the country…says he wants to keep doing it until he can’t anymore.

Jesse: Get outta here!

Bob: Swear to God!

Nick: That’s incredible, good for him. What I would pay to live that life right now. Closest I can get to an Eagles game right now is the cardboard cutout.

Jesse: This pandemic thing worked out for some people I guess…

Nick: Yea, and the rest of us just got bored and had children.

(Everyone laughs in acknowledgment and shakes their heads)

Bob: I gotta get back, guys. I’ll see you next week.

Nick: Take care, man.

Jesse: See you, Bob.

(Bob hops in car as Jesse and Nick continue to the corner of the lot where their cars are parked)

Nick: In other news, I can’t believe Biden just had another stroke. I mean I can believe it but it sucks.

Jesse: I know…needed “Average Joe” to hang tough for two more years. I hope Kamala has it from here.

Nick: I mean I think she’ll be fine. Can’t do anything anyways, McConnell already said Congress won’t resume until Kamala admits the stroke was on purpose. Guess he has been watching Trump TV.

Jesse: That guy is something else man, just won’t go away. Makes Rush Limbaugh look like Rachel Maddow. Even if Washington goes into chaos here, it can’t get any worse than a couple of years ago when we were in class together…Remember we even had to come up with a name for that time-period because things were so bad?… The Great Reckoning, was it?

Nick: Yeah, that was it. Honestly, I’d rather not talk about it, makes me so angry still.

Jesse: Fair enough, how’s work?

Nick: It’s good actually, funny you ask, this past week was the first time I went in for a full week since the beginning of COVID. Getting into a commute routine is sort of weird but I’m excited about it. I need to get out of the house and it’s great to see people.

Jesse: I hear that! I’m working in the office most days as well. We’ve even started having these feedback and innovation sessions at the bar next to the office every Friday. For one, it’s nice to be in a more relaxed setting where everyone’s guard isn’t up, not to mention people can have a few casuals. But secondly, it’s actually nice to just brainstorm…like around people… Shocking how much I missed that in a virtual world. Is it weird to say that I miss smelling people?

Nick: (Emphatically) Yes!… But I know what you mean… Just can’t replicate that feeling over Zoom. My whole job is predicated on relationships and meetings, so I’m thrilled for some normalcy here. It’s definitely awkward making the COVID small talk and doing the mandated vaccine checkpoints, but I’ll take it. I don’t think we’ll ever be “normal” again, but this ain’t so bad.

Jesse: All things considered, we made it…I have to get back home; I want to knock out some yard work before the college games tonight. It’ll be the first packed stadium in three years, I’m pretty jazzed.

Nick: Yea- can’t wait. I’ll see you tomorrow…by the way, we’re bringing nachos and Corona.

Jesse: Don’t even say that.