256 Words

My Favorite Shirt

M. Stanley Bubien

"No!" my daughter whined. "I don't want to!"

"C'mon Victoria," I crooned with arms outstretched, "just one hug."

"No!" she said, and shook her head wildly.

I knew it was a phase, but it still hurt. She used to hug me. I guess I took that for granted, never thinking it would stop---my only real intimacy with her.

"Maybe she doesn't feel good," my wife offered.

I shook my head, more irritated than comforted.

The next morning I was awakened with the announcement, "Victoria threw up in her bed." We both knew who was going to stay home---my wife had an early meeting.

Even if she refused to hug me, I still enjoyed being with my daughter. I spent the morning reading her stories, listening to the stereo, and flipping through a picture book while she played with dolls. Around noon, she became antsy.

"Daddy, my stomach hurts," she finally said.

I picked her up. When her head touched my shirt, I heard a horrible retching. Turning to the side, I saw yellow ooze rolling off my shoulder. Hustling into the bathroom, I leaned over the counter as Victoria threw up again. This time, I let it roll down my sleeve and into the sink.

"It's okay, honey. I have you," I whispered, swallowing against tears of my own.

"I wrecked your shirt, Daddy," Victoria sniffed.

"Oh, it'll wash off," I told her. She barfed again.

But I was wrong. I still wore the shirt for years afterward but the stain never came out.

Copyright ©2003 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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Aug/Sept, 2003
Issue #83

256 Words