You probably don’t remember, but you were with me for my final hangover. You were just three and needed a flu shot. The revelry from the night before hung onto me, smothered me, made each movement a chore as we made our way to the doctor’s office. But I want you to know that although I was exhausted, you always had my full attention. And that day in the waiting room as we sat there for what seemed like forever, I did my best to entertain you. The two of us at the wooden table. The tattered coloring books before us, the coffee can of crayons. The chair was so small my knees almost came to my chin as I sat and colored Daniel Tiger alongside you. I had a fat red crayon and was filling in his shirt. Holding a skinny crayon, you colored his shoes green but spent more time looking my way—ensuring that I stayed within the lines. When your name was finally called to your terrified delight, I chased you up the long carpeted hallway to that cramped room—where we waited some more. You pointed out each instrument and asked me what they were, what they did. The stethoscope was easy—you had a plastic one at home. But I was fumbling to explain the heart, our hearts, when the nurse came in. She told you about muscles, and blood—said a heart was both and somehow more. Then she asked you about your Elsa Princess shirt, and if you liked Frozen, while I held your hand to distract you as the needle went in. It must have worked because you didn’t flinch but laughed instead—the nurse laughed too. She liked to laugh, that nurse, and I could tell she liked you. She said not once, but twice how brave you were as she handed you a granola bar and a tiny can of apple juice. She laughed again when you held up the can and looked at it. You had never seen canned juice before—only the little boxes. So it was funny, how you held it out at arm’s length, how you scrutinized it like it was a puzzle, and not what it was, the most common thing in the world. And I almost laughed too, until you handed the can to me and said, breaking my heart in two, “Here Dad, here’s your beer.”
Richie Zaborowske is a dad, librarian, and author from the Midwest. His writing appears in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Los Angeles Review, X-R-A-Y Lit, Identity Theory, and others. He recently received 2nd place in Wisconsin’s People and Ideas Fiction Contest. If you follow him on Twitter @richiezabo he promises to tweet more often.