Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Peanut Butter.

"And behold, Moses pulled out his hand, and it was leprous-- or however that verse goes," Ivan grinned nervously, staring at the fading yellow-white on the back on his hand. In a few seconds the skin was only red, chapped, and tight-feeling, and he shoved it back under his leg.

Nellie slid a sigh from her mouth, and picked at the chipping paint on the wall. Ivan tapped her hand into her lap. "That isn't your paint or wall, Nellie.

"It's just a wall," Nellie said, as if the fact were very obvious. She stared at Ivan, and then folded her arms and started chewing the inside of her lip.

Ivan swallowed and shifted his feet. I wish everyone would stop staring at me like that when I try to protect other people's property. "I was just thinking that it wasn't right to pick at the paint," he defended.

"You're paranoid, Ivan," Nellie remarked.

"I know," Ivan moped. He rubbed his knuckles against the palm of his hand. "I wish they would come out of that room!"

His sister slid across the bench and up against him. "I know; they've been in there for ninety-four minutes. I was counting the minutes and then checking the lock to make sure I was right."

"Being paranoid runs in the family," Ivan smiled. He shivered and leaned his head against the top of Nellie's. "I miss Penny."

Nellie looked up at him, a startled look on her face. "I never get used to you speaking what you think so suddenly." She kissed his cheek. "I miss her, too. Michael looks a lot like she did when she was little."

"Do you realize that I haven't seen him in a year and three months?" Ivan asked, his stomach trembling as if he was about to get in trouble for something.

Nellie bit her lip. "No. I wish it had been easier."

"I wish it had been different." Ivan cleared his throat and sniffed. "I want to know he's going to be okay."

"Well, Dr. Glynn--"

"I want to see him and know because I saw," Ivan said quickly. "I don't like just believing. I want to see and know."

"Why haven't they let you see him?" Nellie asked. "Mom wouldn't tell me back when I found out about the accident."

"Because of the accident. They though I wasn't fit to be his father."

"It wasn't your fault, Ivan. You weren't trying to be irresponsible."

"I know. I've been waiting for fifteen months to tell him and everyone else that, because they wouldn't listen before."

"Who's idea was it to build the treehouse?" Nellie asked.

Ivan sighed. "It was my idea, and my idea to take Michael up in it while we were building." He pulled his handkerchief from his pocket. "I didn't mean to build it the wrong way, Nellie. I thought I had built it the way it was supposed to, and then it collapsed."

Ivan tried to shove the image of the falling wood and branches from his mind. His wife, his son, all falling, and himself safe on the ground, a hammer beside him.

"The hurricane made everything unstable," Nellie snapped, as if she were again defending him in court. "You tried to make everything safe. You weren't being irresponsible."

"I should haven worked on it by myself, and then neither of them would have been in it. I still remember the crash."

Nellie folded her fingers into his. "Michael has been in rehab, and he's all right."

Ivan wiped his eyes. "Finally. I feel like I've waited a hundred years. How big is he by now?"

"Mm, about like this," Nellie said, holding her hand out. "He wants top see you, Ivan. He remembers you."

"I would think they'd want him to forget and dislike me."

"I didn't let them," Nellie said firmly. "I talked to him about you whenever I saw there, and I gave him your picture, but one from your twenty-seventh birhtday party, whrn you had peanut butter on her nose."

"You could have chosen a different pictyure," Ivan grumped.

"Yes, but it made him laugh. It helped him know who you are," Nellie said. "Ypir other pioctures are nice, but you don't want him to be shy of you. You want him to know who you're like. He doesn't remember that he was theo ne who put the penut butter on your nose, and that he then licked it after the picture was taken."

"Why didn't you tell him? You had a year and three motnhs to."

"You can tell him." Nellie stood up and went across the hospital hall to the door. "I'll bde back in a momewnt. They should be about ready."

Ivan cracked one of his knuckles. He felt nervous and trembly and numb. Pulling his hand from under his leg, he saw that it was "leprous" again. He got to his feet and rubbed his knuckles against his palm. Finally. I wish they would come in.

Nellie came back into the room. Michael was walking behind her. His blonde hair was just like Penny's.

Letting go of Nellie's shirt, Michael ran over to Ivan. Ivan picked up his son and hugged him, his tears dissolving into the little boy's sweater. "I missed you, Michael."

Michael looked at Ivan and smiled. "You don't have any more peanut butter on your nose, daddy."


This was for December's Chatterbox, the theme of which was "Waiting Fulfilled," over at Rachel's blog.