Without Buster

Hello folks, another short story I wrote a couple years back. I was playing around with some different narration techniques and a genre I’d never written in before. Read and enjoy, I received a lot of critic praise for this one.


It was a gloomier day than normal, it seemed; bleak and fat clouds lumbered their way across a pale sky in the early hours of the morning. The birds refused to sing: why should they? It was, in fact a sad day, an unfair day. Yesterday had been both these things too, but it seemed the world shared in Mark’s feelings this time.

Clinging Buster close to his chest, the small, stocky boy sat in the playroom and pondered glumly. Yesterday was an awful day at school, especially for Buster. And it was unfair, all of it! Buster had been there for Mark since forever, and it was not fair that Buster couldn’t continue to be so.

Why do I have to leave you at home? Mark inquired to the well-loved bunny, looking down over an extended lip at the soft fuzzy face of his bestest friend in the dim light. Buster said nothing in response, instead staring ahead and trying to put on a strong display for his friend. It was the same strong face Buster adopted every time Mark needed it, and there were many times. The time when Mark fell and really hurt his head, or the time that grandma was really very sick, or the time when dad wouldn’t stop crying.

It wasn’t fair! Buster was a big help at school; sometimes the lesson about numbers wouldn’t make much sense and Mark would start to fret. Buster was there to help calm him down and remind him that everything happens in little hops. And how was he going to remember the name of all those states without Buster to sing along with him?! IT’S NOT FAIR!

Again, Buster didn’t respond. But he didn’t need to. Buster knew that right now he just needed to listen. That’s what Mark needed most right now, someone to just listen. There was always so much talking happening all the time. On the TV, in the classroom, on the bus and in the grocery store. Talking and noise and noise and talking and noise! This room was just the way that Mark liked it. It was quiet. It needed to be quiet sometimes, why did everything have to make so much noise all the time?

Mark looked over at the worn wooden train tracks that circled him. Buster loved these colourful trains: maybe he could play with the trains while Mark went to school. Buster would like that, but the little boy did not. Why was it that he had to leave Buster behind, someone he needed and couldn’t live without, but some of the girls were allowed to bring their friends with them to school? None of the other boys made fun of the girls for that reason, and the teacher didn’t insist that Maggie and Flitter-Butter had to stay home. So why did Buster have to stay home?

Why does everyone hate you so much? Mark asked quite earnestly, incredibly puzzled at the notion that no-one else saw how important Buster was. He stretched his arms out and held his friend aloft before him, those small button eyes looking a little more sad than usual. I don’t want to leave you behind, Buster. Who else is going to help me read during recess?

Perhaps the answer was a little more simple than Mark had anticipated, or maybe it was because he didn’t like the answer. It was kind of a scary answer, actually. An answer that made the small blonde boy angrily push Buster away, a defiant “NO” echoing through the pink plaster room. Buster bounced and flopped across the floor, bopping his little black nose against the musty-smelling chair where dad used to bedtime stories.

There was a stir from up the stairs at the side the room, the scrape of a plate on a glass table. But Mark sat in silence, staring at Buster, just lying there on the floor. His tall ears wrapped around the chair leg, white fur gathering the brown dust that floated around from under the chair. He wasn’t looking at Mark, and Mark wasn’t looking at him. Instead, the little boy had folded his arms across his chest and stared down at his red and yellow striped shirt.

I don’t want to. Mark feebly tried to think up a good reason why, but the best he could fathom was it’s too hard and it’s scary. Buster listened, and probably quietly agreed, not that Mark could tell, what with his refusal to look at his friend. A memory flashed to the front of his mind, replaying the scenes of yesterday. The teacher taking Buster away, and James and Tyler throwing Buster into the dirt because Buster was just a girly toy.

Buster was not just a toy! Buster was his friend! His friend…

Scrambling over to his poorly discarded friend and hugged him tightly, Mark apologized while tears stung his eyes. But Buster understood. This was difficult, this was tough. Sometimes, though, things got tough. And that was what Buster was there for: the tough times.

The bus was very nearly here; Mark would have to leave soon. Clamber up the stairs and make his way out to the big yellow bus. But he was supposed to leave Buster behind this time. He didn’t want to, but Buster’s words rang in his mind:

It’s time for change.

Once more, Mark looked into Buster’s eyes. They seemed a little more hopeful now. Maybe it was time to be strong and brave, to leave Buster behind. Perhaps that was what Mark needed to do now. But, then again, who would he talk to? If not for Buster, Mark wasn’t sure he could even find the courage to go to school.

“Hey, Champ? The bus is just down the street,” dad called from up the stairs. Mark looked at Buster, Buster at Mark. He smiled a sad little smile: he knew what his choice had to be.

It was time for change.

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