Kenneth, fondly known as Buster
By J.R. MacLean
Ah, my love, it is you. I felt your sweet hand on that massive door. But someone trails you. A weight from before.
“Lands sakes, Karen, I don’t know how you can spend half your waking hours in here all these weeks. Just that awful antiseptic smell gives me the heebie-jeebies. Sets off my allergies too. But I suppose part of a mother’s duty is to make her child face reality.”
We flew last night, my love. Do you remember? I showed you the glaciers thundering from Greenland’s tip. Then we soared hand in hand back to Paris. We rustled with the oak leaves in the Jardin du Luxembourg. We hovered, giggling over our old lady’s crepe cart, became butterfly small and road the updrafts from the buttery heat of her griddle. Do you remember the scent of that raspberry jam?
“You know I cared for Kenneth, baby. We all did. He was a very sweet person. A bit—impractical, let’s say. I mean a Poet Handyman? Whoever heard of such a thing? And I said that motorcycle was a mistake from the very beginning. I just give thanks to the Lord every day that you weren’t on it with him.”
We rode the cold slipstream back, tumbling entwined, clinging to the moment while the darkening stars streaked overhead. We came to the mouth of the great river, the St. Lawrence I think, where it spills into the Atlantic. It was pulling me, pulling me towards that vast, gray horizon. You said, “Hey Buster, where do you think you’re going?”—the way you always do—and we put our hands behind our backs and we were warm again and rubbed our noses together. Yes, we floated in the sunshine over green and another color. Red. Red soil. A potato field in Prince Edward Island, that was it! We floated with our hands behind our backs and rubbed noses in the sunlight, over a carpet of potatoes hushed and cool in the red earth beneath us.
“That insurance policy was the one bright move he made. Thank goodness! But honey, you are going to burn it all up by keeping him going here. You’ve heard what the doctor keeps saying? And they need all these tubes and equipment for people who at least have a chance of getting well. Ah ah ah choo! Achoo! Achoo! Achoo! There they go! Just like Old Faithful. Running like a tap. I’ll be out in the hallway blowing my nose if you need me.”
My love? My love? K—Karen. Karen. Isn’t that funny? For a moment there, I forgot your name. I was feeling you but now, maybe—ah, there you are.
“Mother! Mother! Come here. Quick! Quick!”
“What is it, my darling? Oh my baby, you’re crying. Is he gone? Did you--?”
“No! Come here. Feel his cheek. That’s it. Now feel his nose.”
“Land sakes! His cheek is like touching a corpse, but this, this is warmer than my fingers.”
“Yes! Isn’t it wonderful!”
“That’s just thrilling, honeybun. Achoo! Achoo! I’ll let the nurse know, in case there’s something wrong with the machine.”
Karen tenderly strokes the warm nose of her young husband and brings her lips very close to his cold left ear.
“Only when we’re ready, Buster,” she whispers. “Only when we’re ready.”