Katybug: A Brief Love Story

by jimowensjr

The old man sat down gently beside her. He felt the ache of 81 Octobers in his back, knees and hips.

“It’s cooling down early this year, Katybug.”

He couldn’t remember when he’d started calling her Katybug, but he thought it was sometime in 1948. Katherine just didn’t feel right. “Katybug” was name was full of affection, respect and the joy befitting her. He’d sat with her each night like this for the last few weeks and realized the afternoon sunlight was beginning to lose its battle with the chill of evening. The concrete bench felt harder, colder than the day before.

“Oh, my day was just fine,” he said. “Just like always, I had coffee with Herman and George at the Dairy Queen. George is worried about Becky. She’s just not herself he says. Keeps forgetting things. Sometimes she looks like him like she doesn’t know him. Heckuva, thing. Married 55 years and she doesn’t always know who he is. Sure glad we’ve never faced that.”

He shuffled on the bench struggling for comfort.

“I think I’m gonna make a little dinner tonight. Maybe fry up some oysters. I know how you love oysters. Its been a while since I cooked’em. Maybe some hush puppies, too. Whadya, think?”

Katybug loved his fried oysters and hush puppies. She had always made the slaw and sometimes they would share a bowl of ice cream for dessert. Each took a bite in succession, matching the others spoonful. It had been this way for so many years. He loved ice cream.   When he got “the cancer” Katybug made him eat the ice cream to keep him losing too much weight. She would take a spoonful then feed him one.

“Cancer,“ he thought. “Hell, I wasn’t sick until they made me take the damn chemo.”

She was silent. He knew what she was thinking. Oysters would be delicious. He should cook some. October was a good time for getting them from the Gulf. She always made the tartar sauce. It would be nice. He could smell the deep fried aroma mixing with cool fall evening, filling the house with its familiar comfort.

“I talked to David today. He and Maggie are good. Boy works too much. I worry about him. He’s 50 years old and still I worry,” he laughed. “He put Rachel on the phone. She’s so grown up. Not a baby any more. How did she get to be 15? She misses you. Wants to come out for a visit soon. Maybe Christmas.”

He glanced up at the sky, pausing. He had lost his train of thought again. It happened more and more now. He knew he rambled when he spoke, wondered how often he repeated himself. He wondered what he had forgotten today. Did he lock the house? Feed the dog? Had he taken the right medicine? He worried he about ending up like Becky.

“Well, it’s gettin’ dark Katybug. “

He positioned the cane carefully on the ground between his knees, took a deep breath, gathering strength. He tensed the muscles in his legs and arms “preparing for lift off,” as he called it. Then relaxed.

“Maybe we’ll sit just a few more minutes.”

He looked up at the sky once more. The chill of fall landed on a face full of wisdom and determination. The moon was rising as the orange and blue gave sky way to the graying dusk. He glanced down at the Mums he’d brought yesterday. Or was it the day before? Katybug loved mums, pumpkins, all the trappings of Fall. It was her favorite time of year.

He read the words etched in the cold slab of granite.

“Beloved Wife, Mother, and Friend.”

Her 79 years reduced to those three words. How could such a remarkable life be properly reduced to a few on a piece of stone, he wondered?

“Oh, Katybug. I miss you so. You made me laugh. Taught me so much. When I got afraid you made me strong. And you could make me so mad. But I don’t remember that so much anymore.”

The old man rose from the cold bench he’d had placed beside her and shuffled back to his car. He muttered something about being an old fool. He knew he would see Katybug again. Scolded himself for wishing it would be soon. He heard her scolding him too.

“Now Matthew, that just won’t do.” He smiled, finding comfort in the memory of how she saw things so clearly.

He glanced over his shoulder and smiled.

“You rest well,” he told her. “I’ll be back tomorrow,” thinking he should be sure to bring a blanket to sit on. “ I’ll be back tomorrow.