A Fever

I peel off my toenails mindlessly, one by one
as I stare at his listless body,
limp with fever, and
scribble down notes in my brain.

His temperature was 102.3 at 6:03pm,
and after an emergency run to CVS (what good is a spare bottle
when the medication expires so damn quickly?!)
I gave him Tylenol and a few sips of water at 6:27pm.

“Just rest, sweet boy,” I whisper softly,
patting his forehead with a cool washcloth
(‘but don’t close your eyes, they might not open again!’
I whimper to myself).

I sit on the floor in his room, hovering close enough
to hear his breath go in and out, and I wait.
I will check his temperature again at 6:57pm,
but If it’s not gone down I am taking him to the ER
(winter weather advisory be damned).

I look up at the canvas print of him on the wall,
wrapped up in ducky bath towel
that proudly tells the world he is JAMES.
When he dies, what will I do with that picture, I wonder.
Should I keep all his pictures up or will that be too upsetting for his brother?

6:33 pm.

What did James do today,
What do I need to remember?
I go to the kitchen and dig through the trash
to retrieve a piece of yellow construction paper
covered in green, directionless lines
and two random half closed circles.
I will treasure this, it could be the last thing
he ever colored.

6:44pm.

How could I lose another one of my babies?
I shake my head in disbelief,
this cannot really be happening.
I self-soothe with one simple thought:
Tinsley and he will take care of each other in Heaven.

6:57pm.

It is time to check him, and I know.
His temp will read 106, he’s contracted some rare horrible virus
that only kills .05% of children, and
he won’t even make it to the hospital.

Defeated, I press the button: 101.1.

I startle and I startle him. It’s dropped a whole degree?!
“Mommy, can I have some water?” he perks up.
My mouth gapes open and a tiny piece of hope
exerts itself.
We rest together, and I feel his body growing cooler.

7:08pm

We wander into the living room to watch Curious George
and nibble on some crackers.

7:27pm

His temperature has dropped to 99.5,
almost back to completely normal.
I press his body into mine,
inhaling the giggles and snuggles —
thank God I get at least one more day of this.

I breathe a sigh of measured relief.
“I do not think he is going to die tonight,”
I tell my husband.

He whirls around in his chair, alarmed.

“No, Kathy, I don’t think so either,” he says gingerly,
concern for me dripping off his face.

I nod,
kiss the top of James’ head
and stop planning out his funeral.

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