BRONTY WENDI DASS
Jack got Bronty the day he started treatment.
“Pick out anythingl,” I said.
“Something soft,” my wife added. “Something you can snuggle close.” She clutched my
hand. Her eyes watered with tears, and so did mine. But we both blinked them away—we couldn’t let Jack see.
Jack chose a stuffed dinosaur. Velvety green fabric with smooth shiny scales. Bronty, my
son named him. When the nurses prepared the drips, Jack hugged Bronty. Hugged him closer, when they came with the needles. Closer still, when they wheeled him to dreary rooms where harsh lights illuminated large, intimidating machines. Some were rooms where my wife and I could only watch from outside, could only wave and force cheery smiles. Some were rooms we couldn’t see in, rooms we didn’t want to see in.
Over time, Bronty fell apart; he lost a leg and had to be patched up on countless occasions
by my wife. His once soft fur matted and the scales lost their sparkle. But Jack still held Bronty close, nuzzled Bronty’s beat-up neck under his chin and kneaded what remained of the tail.
Jack at some point joked that Bronty was in better shape than he was. I choked back a sob
and stroked Jack’s cheek. Thin like my grandmother’s, his skin exuded a soft yellow glow, a shade that had no place on a child. My wife and I patted his hands, and they wheeled Jack out, Bronty safely tucked under his arm.
I sit on Jack’s bed, the one in Jack’s room, and I can hear myself telling him that everything
will be fine. I can hear my wife echoing those sentiments. It’s quiet, has been for weeks. So quiet I can hear my wife’s whimpers down the hall.
Bronty sits next to me on the bed. I pick him up and brush my cheek against his fur. The
smell of rubbing alcohol and latex fill my nose. Behind them, faint, so faint I can barely make it out, is Jack’s smell. The shampoo in the Sesame Street bottle. The dye-free laundry detergent my wife used to buy because the other stuff irritated Jack’s skin, still buys, will probably always buy.
I imagine how things should have been but will never be. The scent of freshly cut grass
lingers in the air, and the mellow evening sun warms my skin. You’ll never find him this time, Dad, Jack says. He giggles as I scour the yard. I check all of Jack’s favorite hiding spots with no luck. Then I see him. Bronty's tail pokes out of the bed of daffodils.
My hands are deep in the dirt when my wife calls us in for dinner. I shake off Bronty, and
dust poofs in the air. Best spot yet, I say. Bronty’s paw in one hand, I take Jack’s dirt-sodden hand in my other, and the three of us walk inside.