Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Fiction: Bones

The new puppy begs for a name with his droopy eyes, long lashes that cover half of his face and a pale cream coat stamped with a pattern that resembles...lips.

But the boy doesn't think so. He too has dark brown eyes that drop at the corners and long lashes that cast shadows halfway down to his cheeks. His lips are full, puckered while thinking.

"They look like milk bones. Puppies like bones. That's why he is bones."

He tilts his head and knocks a dimpled finger against an imaginary chalk board, mimicking the teachers he has observed so carefully, so quietly at kindergarten. The boy speaks so rarely that his father is always surprised to hear it--thoughtfully constructed sentences, an adult vocabulary rather than baby talk.

At the moment the puppy is worn out from a surgery to remove a cyst from his belly. The boy has brought him water, kneeling to push the ceramic bowl under Bones' chin. He patted Bones' head. The puppy whimpers and licks the boy's hand.

"Dinner time, Austin!" His father unties an apron from his waist and pats the boy on his shoulder.

Austin slides his hands around Bones' belly and attempts to carry him. They are on the small patio extending from the two bedroom apartment. A streak of twilight livens the auburn in the boy's hair. His father squints to see the blue in his eyes.

"No puppy, just you at the table." He says gently.
Austin looks up, eyes glassy.
"It's pizza bagel," James says. "But no puppy."

 Austin follows James inside. The phone rings. It's the hospital. Austin's mother Gina is scheduled for surgery tomorrow. The surgeon wants to assure the family they are in good hands. The nurse reminds them of the schedule. They can come and pick her up at 11am. Gina will be rolled into surgery at 8am.

Dinner is still warm. Two pizza bagels dressed with ham and tomato and cheese: Romano, Parmigiano and cheddar. Austin picks off bits of red stained bagel flesh and leaves them on his plate. James knows he hates tomato but he leaves it on anyway but ignores his attempts to take it off. When he stands to clean up, Austin's plate looks like the affect of a post surgery tray, littered with soggy red tissues.

He drains the last of his wine and leaves the dishes in the sink.

* * *

The next day, Austin can't find his shoes until 7:45. They rush out but misses saying goodbye to Gina before they roll her inside. The waiting room is warm and comfortable with plush chairs and thick carpeting. Austin lies down in Jame's lap and props his feet up against the chair legs to watch Monsters Inc. on TV.  James dozes off when the sunlight pours through the bay window and his breakfast of pastry and tea settles soothingly in his stomach.

"Mr. Greenwall..."

James wakes to see the surgeon standing before him, tall like an alpine spruce, accentuated by his green scrubs.

"Can I see her now? How is she?" The surgeon's flat eyes and pressed lips spell out news James doesn't want to read. He presses forward with questions he wants to ask, questions that assumes another outcome.

"The surgery... she experienced a cardiac arrest after an hour. We are very sorry."

James let the words float over him as if they are debris in a neglected pool.

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