A taster from SCHRÖDINGER'S CAT by Eileen Schuh
Chorie looked up as Gus came in the door. She closed the slick cover of her magazine, pushed it to the centre of the kitchen table, and wondered what it was she’d been reading—something about a movie star being mad at Oprah.
Gus kicked off his shoes, squiggled out of his tie, and hung it on the oak newel post. He wandered toward her, his eyes staring past her, through her. His lips drawn into a tight straight line.
Their counsellor had advised them to be more tolerant toward each other, more accepting of the differing ways people handle heartache. Chorie surmised the counsellor had no children because sharing their grief as a couple, wasn’t going to happen, just as Gus’ second visit to the counsellor hadn’t happened.
After the funeral, Chorie intended on going crazy. She’d build a comfortable inner world in which to live. Gus would look at her with accusing eyes, say not a word to her, and seek out some other woman’s arms for comfort. Anyone with kids would know that’s what was going to happen.
Gus threw a stack of papers onto the kitchen table, turned his back, and plugged in the kettle. Chorie tilted her head. His strong, square shoulders strained against his white dress shirt. Although he was almost 50 and beginning to grey, he still had the angled physique that first attracted her to him.
He clenched his fists and laid them on the counter, one on each side of the kettle. He had the personality to go with the body, commanding respect with his deep, quiet voice, his intensity, and self-confidence.
At least, he’d once had all that. Now it was just pretence. His daughter was dying and he was a broken man. There was nothing left of him. Nothing left for her.
The kettle began whistling. He unplugged it, reached in the cupboard for a cup, and opened the black and gold ceramic tea canister. He pulled out a bag, dropped it in the mug, and poured in the boiling water.
He raised the cup halfway to his lips. “I’m taking Krystaline to Seattle,” he said. He took a sip and began turning towards her. Chorie held her breath. Was he actually going to look at her? Have a conversation with her?
He stopped turning, though, and gazed out the window at the bright Alberta summer sun. It was well past six pm, but it wouldn’t be dark for hours. The summer solstice had just passed. The longest day. June 21, Krystaline’s birthday. Last week she’d turned eight. She would never turn nine.
“Seattle?” Chorie asked.
“I did some research on the internet,” he said, dropping his eyes as he turned toward her. He set his cup on the table and reached for his papers. “There’s a clinic down there offering a new experimental treatment. I’m taking her.”
“She’s too sick to travel,” Chorie protested.
Gus slid the papers toward her. “I’m taking her,” he repeated. He picked up his cup and walked toward his office.
“Don’t you think this is something we should discuss? That I should have some say?” Chorie called.
She watched his back until he disappeared down the hall. She heard the soft click of the latch on the double French doors. She imagined him flicking on his computer, reclining in his leather ergonomic office chair, closing his eyes.
She picked up the papers and scanned them as she walked down the hall. They were pages printed off the internet. A medical protocol, the top page said, for treatment of a last resort.
She wrapped her fingers around the cool brass knob. Through the obscure glass, she could see Gus’ undulating silhouette. She quietly turned the knob and pushed open the door. It was as she’d imagined, him lounging in his chair, his eyes closed—unshed tears. Windows blinking on the monitor, patiently awaiting his password.
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