A Lion for June

Fiction.  500 word challenge from a few years ago.

Jasper woke suddenly as his head bumped against the bus window.  He felt the drool running down his chin from the corner of his mouth and he wiped it with his old pea coat sleeve.  Then he rubbed his eyes, and, blinking the way that you do when you’ve been woken in the middle of a REM cycle, he looked around to get his bearings.  He realized he was on the bus first.  Then he saw the giant stuffed lion on the seat next to him.  The lion was from Delia, his social worker, and he was going to give it to June, his daughter.  He looked outside to see where the bus was heading, but it was dark and the glare made only his reflection visible.  He did notice a blue sign with a big white H on it, though.  

That meant “Hospital.”  Yes.  June was going into surgery.  June was going into surgery at the 


He jerked up straight and reached for the cable that lets the driver know you want to get off.  He pulled the cable, heard the “ding,” and saw the red sign light up in the front of the bus.  Then he heard the squeal of the breaks and felt the deceleration.  He shuffled a bit frantically in his seat, looking for his satchel.  Finding it behind his legs under the chair, he hastily got up and threw it over his shoulder.  He grabbed the stuffed lion and rushed down the aisle, bumping his knees and his satchel on every seat on the way.  He sniffled and rubbed his nose on his pea coat sleeve before wobbling off of the bus.  The airbrakes hissed and the bus rolled off, leaving a cloud of exhaust in the cold winter night for him to breathe in.  The hospital was two blocks away.  

After taking a few steps, he felt his arm jerk.  The lion dropped onto the wet ground.  He moaned as his arm jerked again.  He felt his knees begin to twitch.  The pills, he thought.  He’d forgotten his pills again.  He began compulsively repeating the word semi-functional as he carefully reached into his pea coat pocket with the hand that wasn’t twitching and found the bottles marked fluphenazine, and fluoxetine.  Dr. Scribner had also told him to take aprazalam for sudden onset tics, so he took one of those, too.  He waited a couple of minutes for the twitching to stop; then he cleaned the lion off as best he could, and continued walking.  

At the end of the first block, he heard a string quartet playing a song out of a distant memory.  He stopped where he was, mesmerized.  He recalled his mother smiling over the piano at him as the notes seemed to dance off the score, through his brain and out of his four-year-old fingers.  June was four.  He still couldn’t recall the name of the piece as they rolled her in for surgery.

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