In today's excerpt Bud, recently graduated from the Institute for Positive Living, interacts with old friends at a "welcome home" party, managing to offend some with his new outlook.
"You don't get it, do you? A month ago you couldn't get out of bed and now you act like the world is your oyster!" She sobbed again. "I can't take it-- it's too drastic a change. It's like I'm suddenly married to someone else!"
Bud sat down and held her hand tenderly. "But you are married to someone else," he said. "Would you prefer the blob in the chair?"
"I don't know," she said. "Just give me some time to adjust. By the way, I've invited a few of our friends over Friday night for a welcome home party. I hope you don't mind."
"Mind? I'm delighted."
"Good. I worked swing shift last night so I'm going to bed."
"Would you like me to join you?"
"No thanks. I've been sleeping alone for so long, even when you were in the bed, that I wouldn't know what to do."
"OK dear, I understand, but just consider the invitation open. I really want to make love to you!"
Martha got a horrified look on her face and fled to the bedroom.
The routine of work comforted Martha for the next several days. Co-workers asked about her husband. "He's much better, thank you," she said without elaborating. Meanwhile Bud was a virtual dervish of activity, gardening, painting, cleaning, and mailing resumes to every conceivable computer firm. He made dinner and even washed the dishes-- there was virtually no housework for her to do except the wash. Soon it was Friday evening and the party was upon them. Before the guests' arrival she sat down with Bud for a talk.
How was she going to put this? There was no good way to say it. "When our guests come tonight, do you think you can tone it down a little-- I mean your positive thinking? Maybe talk a little less or something, nod a little more?"
Bud looked at her with chagrin. "But how can I? This is me now. I'm not some computer program you can turn on or off. I'm a human being, loveable and unique. I just have to be myself."
"But Bud, remember, these people have not seen you in a long time and they haven't gone through your training. I just don't want you sounding like an Amway salesman at a horse show, if you get my meaning."
"I'll do my best," Bud promised, "but to quote Popeye, 'I yam what I yam.' If this causes you embarrassment you're more than welcome to make excuses for me or just ask me to leave."
"But you're the reason for the party!"
"Then I guess you're stuck with me, dear."
As the guests arrived, Bud was solicitous in collecting coats and handbags. He greeted everyone warmly: firm, double-clasped handshakes for the men and light hugs with a peck on the cheek for the women. He exclaimed how marvelous they all looked and how glad he was to see them. Martha was relieved that no one seemed offended by his enthusiasm.
As they settled in for drinks, Bud found himself talking to Gerri and John. "So how's it going, guys?" he said innocuously.
"As well as can be expected," Gerri answered.
John toyed with his drink. "You know about our daughter, Katy."
Bud searched his memory. He nodded understandingly.
"She's seventeen now and her cystic fibrosis is worse," John continued. "She just got out of the hospital a week ago." Bud saw the pain etched on their faces.
"Most of them don't live much beyond twenty," John added.
Bud nodded wisely. "I know it must be difficult for you," he said, "but think of the closeness this illness has brought you with your daughter. I bet you don't have that kind of intimacy with your other children."
"You know, we don't," commented John. "That's a blessing we need to be reminded of."
"Yes," Gerri said, "and it takes a special person to see that."
"Thank you," Bud said gravely. "How are things otherwise?"
"Well," said Gerri, "we think Grandma is getting Alzheimer's. She's not so bad yet but she's becoming very forgetful. We took away her car keys and now we're concerned about leaving her alone."
"Ah, yes, Alzheimer's disease," Bud said. "It's very common and so little understood. But one positive thing about it is how forgetfulness adds spice to one's life. Just think: a hot fudge sundae might taste like the first one you ever ate. And you can watch your favorite videos over and over just like they were new releases. Every day can be an entirely new day, full of surprises. And sex can be like the first time, every time!"
Gerri gave an abashed look at John, who frowned back. Martha swept to the rescue and asked if they'd like their drinks refilled, sending Bud to the bar. "Did he say anything strange?" she whispered.
"Nothing too terrible," John said, "though his take on Alzheimer's disease might be considered unusual by some."
"Thank goodness!" Martha exclaimed. "I think he's just taken this positive thinking too far. Here he comes."
Bud returned with the glasses as Martha announced, "The food's ready!"
As the guests lined up at the buffet, Bud found himself between Irving and Diane. "How you guys doing?" he said.
"Fine," Irving replied, "especially since we're getting a free meal."
"Glad to hear it. How are things at home?"
Diane gave a worried glance at Irving. "Well there is Brook-- we've had some problems."
"What sort of problems?"
"Drug problems," Irving said with a finality that attempted to close the subject.
"Sorry to hear that," Bud said. "But what a character builder! Some of the strongest people I've met are those who've overcome a drug problem!"
"Yeah, well she hasn't overcome it yet," Irving said angrily. "In fact, she just OD'd last month for the third time."
"Third time's a charm," Bud said, grinning. "Maybe this time she'll get it. And if she really wanted to kill herself she would have done it by now so these are probably just 'cries for help.' She's telling you how much she values your support."
"Yeah, well I wish she'd send me a postcard instead," Irving fumed, and turned his back on Bud to load his plate. His hands were shaking with rage. Martha spotted it and asked for Bud's help in the kitchen. He didn't seem to notice he'd offended anyone.
So the evening progressed, Martha occasionally asking her guests' indulgence for Bud's comments, he cheerful throughout, never meaning to give offense. When the guests were gone they sat down together over a cup of coffee.