The end of the day was the worst part. The sun going down meant walking back to the house. Back to the silence. Back to the slow, insane beep of medical machinery.
Keeping his son alive. In a place that was neither dead nor living…purgatory for those whose hearts continued to beat without a single electrical pulse in the brain.
The long ago little boy he’d loved more than he loved himself. His only child. The young man on his way home from college, taken by a drunk driver on a cold night a year before while his father slept, unknowing.
The nurses were kind. The doctor was kind. Everyone who came by was fucking kind.
He didn’t feel kind. He wanted to slash and batter and scream.
Instead, he entered the quiet home they shared since the boy’s mother left them. The space kept neat as they learned from her. The meals simple but nutritious like she taught them before she went to live a life that didn’t include them.
Working the ranch took every hour of daylight. Listening to the beep kept him company every hour of darkness. Until he wanted to run away into the night. Until the shame of that feeling left him sobbing on his knees beside his son’s bed. Holding a hand unable to hold his back.
He followed his routine. Getting the update from his nurse, making his dinner of ham sandwiches, taking his shower, and sitting with his son to watch shows they both loved.
As usual, he dosed in the recliner in the downstairs guest room, the place made into a hospital room for his boy. After the accident, he hadn’t been back to his own bed. The bed on which he’d slept calmly while his son’s head crashed through the glass of his driver’s side window, hitting the grill of the truck that struck him, and destroyed every dream he ever had for his future.
The bed from which he rose to race to the hospital.
He didn’t need the bed. Every night he had left with his boy, he planned to sleep in the recliner. Sometimes, he drifted off talking to him. When his body couldn’t stay awake another minute. When his mind desperately chased a few hours of peace.
The beeping woke him night after night, for weeks then months then years. Until the night the beeping didn’t wake him.
It was the silence.
© Shayne McClendon
PS: Do you love short stories? I’m something of a work horse when it comes to short stories. I write a lot of them. Every year or so, I put the short stories I’ve written into a collection. Check out Quickies – Volume One and Quickies – Volume Two.
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