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  • I got an email from my mother yesterday. My dad was walking across the room now with the physical therapist. He was eating ice chips and drinking apple juice.

    Apple juice.

    That takes me back.

    The summer I turned 16 I came down with mononucleosis. I came down hard.

    I was reading on the couch, just a bit tired. The Watergate hearings were on the radio.

    Benjy, will you keep an eye on the muffins in the oven, my mother called from the kitchen. I’ll be right back.

    An hour later she opened the door to a wave of smoke.

    Benjy! Didn’t you, then she saw me. Slumped on the couch, barely looking up.

    The light hurt my eyes, I wouldn’t smell a thing for the next three years. I was gone a long ways and going further fast.

    The island elders came through. Prognosis. Get the boy off the island.

    Jeezus Cheerist, said Rut when they hauled me down the rocks to the punt. I ain’t taking him aboard my boat. He’ll like to die. I ain’t never had anybody god damned die aboard my boat.

    I just hung there in my father’s arms. I felt like I was deep undersea, sucking air a long way through a thin tube. All I could hear was the wheeze and rattle of my breath. All I felt was the sharp splinters of sunlight beating down on me.

    I don’t remember the ride over on the Margaret Caroline. I don’t remember getting to Southwest Harbor. I don’t remember if we went to the Clinic in town. I don’t remember anything until the cool sheets in the spare bedroom upstairs in Elsie’s house and the pure dark relief of the shades pulled down tight.

    Muffled voices drifted up the stairs.

    He has to drink or we’ll have to take him to the hospital.

    My father came in.

    Apple juice or water Benjy, he whispered.

    Apple juice, I croaked.

    And apple juice it was for two weeks.

    Apple juice.

    It takes me back.
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