BUSTER • by Randy Whittaker

The gun seemed heavier today — maybe that’s because it was pressed against his temple. All of those years on the range had made him quite comfortable with its weight and girth. He knew the metal and plastic Glock pistol would do its job. He thought, “such a simple design yet capable of creating so much confusion.” The bullet, once released from the barrel, would find its mark quite easily today. Once it did, his pain would cease.

She always said this was her favorite room. The two of them would sit on the couch and hold hands as they watched TV or a movie. A simple pleasure, taken away forever. They hadn’t sat on the couch together for some time. The disease — he refused to call it by its proper name out of sheer disgust — had taken her piece by piece until she was almost unrecognizable. A vibrant, stunningly beautiful woman reduced to skin and bones. They had been best friends. He knew no other. Their love was one that even after 40 years of marriage, friends still commented on how incredible their relationship was. He got no greater pleasure than going home and seeing her beautiful face greet him at the door.

The hospital bed seemed to engulf her in its vastness like some huge white desert. She would look at him from that bed with those still incredibly beautiful blue eyes and he could almost taste her pain. The nurses and doctors were wonderful. They did everything they could to keep her comfortable. Always hopeful for one more day, week, month. But the disease knew it was winning. It had a great track record. But he kept hope alive. It was all he had.

He would go home at night, alone. The house seemed so big without her. The emptiness seemed to swallow him every night. But every night, as he walked through the door, Buster was there to greet him. He would scratch Buster behind the ears and, somehow, the pain would ease. Buster, with his tail wagging, would lead him to the couch. He would sit and look at the picture on the table and see two smiling, vibrant people so in love with each other the universe revolved around them. He smiled at happier times as he got ready for bed. Tomorrow, he would visit her again. One day at a time was all the hope he had.

She was gone.

The solitude was thunderous. The greyness pressed in on him — tightening, squeezing. He hadn’t realized how much those visits had energized him. How he had lived for the briefest of moments with her. Now that she was gone, his life seemed so empty, so painful. Soon, he would be in a better place.

The gun was brought up to his temple. He knew it would be messy but he planned on calling the cops just before he pulled the trigger. No neighbors reporting a ‘foul smell’ for him. It was ironic — all of those years on the job and the countless bodies and sudden deaths he had been dispatched to — he was about to become a statistic. As he thought about the cops busting in his door, he looked over from his chair to see Buster sitting on their couch.

Buster stared at him with soft, moist eyes. He could barely look back. Waves of guilt began to wash over him. Is this really what she would have wanted? Who would take care of Buster?

Just then, Buster jumped off the couch and walked over to his chair. He looked down to see those gentle, almost pleading eyes. The gun fell to his lap as he stroked Buster behind his ears. Buster stood on his hind legs and began to nuzzle his chest. He hugged Buster as the tears flowed from him and the pain crushed him so heavily he could barely breathe. He looked down at the gun on his lap and the tears made the metal shiny and wet. He put the gun on the table and he and Buster went to the couch.

“It’ll be all right, fella,” he said through sobs so powerful they shook his entire body.

Buster’s head was on his lap as he scratched him behind his ears. He picked the picture up off the table and looked at it.

Buster looked up at him and began to slowly lick his hand.

The call to the police would have to wait.

Randy Whittaker writes in Ontario, Canada.

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