The match dove toward the sidewalk, a smoking rocket, a NASA nightmare. He pulled the nicotine deep into his lungs, and he felt time slow down. Just a hair. So little, he barely noticed, but enough. Just enough.
The rust red, crumbling bricks shimmered in the sun. He lit another cigarette. There was no point in postponing it. He just didn't want to hear it. Even if he already knew. It was like they had to rub it in. He knew she was dead, he didn't need some slick city doctor to tell him that.
He had half a mind to just get up and leave. But there was probably some paperwork to fill out. He stubbed the cigarette out on the heel of his shoe and threw the butt in the nearest trash can.
He saw the doctor coming, and he saw his practiced look of concern, and he felt a little sick inside. Not because she was dead, but because he'd have to hear the words come out of some asshole kid's mouth.
"Sir, I'm so sorry to tell you that your wife has passed."
"Yes, sir. I know she has."
The doctor cocked his head to the side and with his round glasses he looked just like an owl. Bud chuckled.
"Sir, would you like to speak to one of our counselors?"
"Nope. Want to go home."
"Sir, I think you're in shock."
"Nope again, son. I'm not in shock. My wife is dead. I know that. Now I'd like to go home and get to work. I've been neglecting the tomatoes."
"Sir, these things can be unexpected, even when..."
"Listen, boy. Don't talk. Just listen. I know my wife is dead. She's been dying for five years. This is neither a shock, nor a disaster. It's a blessing if you ask me. I loved that woman. And I don't know what they teach you in college, but I don't appreciate your tone. You did your job, now move on."
"Sir, anger is a natural reaction..."
"Listen, boy. I ain't angry. I ain't happy, but I am something close to it. Do you know what it's like to watch the woman you love die? Do you know what it's like to have the woman you love die and have some snotnose kid insinuating you aren't grieving right?"
"Jesus, son. I thought doctors were supposed to be smart?"
The doctor's eyes flashed and Bud cocked his head to the side like they were mirror images.
"Well, you go take care of your tomatoes then, sir. If's that's what is important to you right now..."
Bud's old, busted fingers wound themselves up in the boy's lab coat. Bud pushed him up against the wall. His face was inches away from the owl glasses.
"Listen to me, you son of a bitch. I don't like tomatoes. I never fucking liked tomatoes. But my wife loved them. And if those plants die, I'm going to come back here and kick every inch of your pretentious, ivy-league ass for delaying me. Do you understand now?"
The doctor looked down at his shoes.
"Good, then I'm going home. I'll come back tommorow and fill out any paperwork you got. Today, I need to water them tomatoes. Never do to let 'em die."