Here’s my take on Suzanne Burke’s “Fiction In A Flash Challenge” Week #12 Image Prompt.
I gently shifted my weight in the chair, trying to pry my bare legs off the brown vinyl. Several deep breaths did nothing to relieve the tension in my shoulders. I pulled my sweater tightly around me with the realization it wasn’t wise to be dressed for a hot summer day while sitting in a cold hospital room. There had been no change in the last few hours. The constant beeps continued, and the oxygen flowed in and out with a gentle whoosh.
I shook my head at the tragic irony of a man needing me after how he treated me growing up. My father had an undiagnosed mental condition. He hid it well, so only those who lived with him knew his explosive violence under the shrewd mask of a family man. No one saw the marks; they were never on my face. He was careful even when he had lost control. The war and his parents had hurt him so deeply that when it bubbled to the surface – it hurt us. He never seemed aware of his faults, so there was never an opportunity for him to seek any help. My family spent every waking moment, trying not to upset him in the hopes all would be well. It wasn’t.
I sighed loudly and took the protein bar out of my purse. Though I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t want to pass out and end up in a hospital bed, too. I washed the crunchy honey oats down with a bottle of water. The nurse entered the room right after I finished. I pretended to be asleep. There was nothing new she could share with me.
Finally, she was gone, and I sat up staring at the lump of a once proud and cruel man. We were the only two left from my family. Alcohol and drugs took everyone down, except me. I knew when to quit. The man lying in bed had upped his intake of drinking until it was all he did. Today I watched them remove twenty-one bottles of liquid from his abdomen, relieving his labored breathing. He had no idea it was happening.
A flash of light caught my attention, and I quietly got up to investigate. It was coming from the nurse’s station where someone had placed a small golden clock that looked like a holiday ornament. It was the same as…a chill shot through me.
It looked exactly like the clock from my dream last night where I was boxing up my father’s belongings. My only thought had been he wasn’t dead. Then, in one box, was this device. It had a clock face on all four sides as it gently spun in a circle playing my father’s favorite Hank Williams Jr. song.
“Can’t be,” I whispered, hoping I’d seen it the day before.
A loud conversation cleared that up.
“Did you see what that patient in 202 left us today, Sissy?”
“I’ve never seen a clock like that before. How sweet of him.”
I gulped when I saw the time was the same as my dream. Unsure what to do, I stood there frozen until a sudden warmness wrapped me in its wisdom. I quietly closed the door and stood over my father.
“I forgive you, father, even after all you did to us. You weren’t happy here on earth, and I hope you’ll find some happiness where you are going. Please know I’m doing this in love, and I believe it’s what I’m meant to do. Rest in Peace.”
I picked up the extra pillow and held it tightly over his face. He never struggled, but at the last moment, his bloodshot eyes opened. I saw approval in them, as the machines went silent. His eyes closed. I put the pillow back and pushed the nurse’s button right as they threw the door open. Mercifully, they couldn’t revive him.
Later, when I left his room, I hurried past the clock still set at the same time, 11:53. After a long wait for the elevator, the clock began playing my father’s favorite song. I held back a smile when I saw the hands had moved to noon, which only justified my actions.
No one knew what I did that day. I was okay with that because he was free, and so was I.