What would a short fiction series be without a plug for my
novelette Carson’s Love? Incomplete, of course. You can find Carson’s love on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’m currently working on the sequel and hope to have published by the end of the year. Enjoy.
The doors open across the garden and an elderly black man steps out. He holds the doors open with his butt, keeping a pole on tri-pod wheels upright with one hand and pulling a red wagon with the other. The pole is the same type they use to hold the IV bag next to Carson’s bed, but this one is top heavy with bulky electrical boxes, pumps, and syringes.
A tangle of tubes and wires lead to a small black boy, about Carson’s age, in the wagon. The poor child’s arms and chest are covered with so many tubes, wires, and surgical tape he looks like some kind of toddler cyborg.
I suspect the old man is his grandfather. Dressed in khaki shorts and a golf shirt he sports a pot belly and short graying hair. Grandpa struggles to prevent the wires and tubes from pulling while keeping the pole upright. With the skill of someone who’s obviously done this many times, he manages to drag the pole and wagon into the garden. He gently lifts the child and softly deposits him in the dew covered grass.
I pretend to examine my phone while watching the pair through the corner of my eye. Dressed only in a diaper, his face and limbs are puffy and his hair stands straight up. He looks like a troll baby doll. I stifle a giggle. I see his runny nose from here and badly want to wipe it.
The child picks up a leaf, shows it to Grandpa and says, “Eeaaf!”
“Yes, Jamal, llleeeeaf!”Grandpa replies in a deep, loving tone.
The sun peaks around the eastern wing and drops a bright ray on Jamal like a spotlight.
He’s still for a moment, surprised by the sudden light, then squints up at the fresh, blue sky.
“Peep peeps!” he suddenly shouts and points at the pigeons circling above the buildings.
“Peep peeps!” he repeats, stumbles forward after the birds and falls down. One of the lines pulls taunt before Grandpa can push the pole forward. It jerks and Jamal gives a sharp cry. Grandpa catches the pole before it falls over on the boy. Jamal screams as one of the electronic boxes blares an alarm.
I cringe. It’s the cry only a parent knows...he’s really hurt. I’m on my feet. I don’t think the fall was bad, he fell on his hands and the grass is soft.
Before I reach them Grandpa has Jamal in the wagon and is untangling the tubes and wires. Again, Grandpa struggles with the door. I open it and he nods in thanks. The beeping becomes a steady flat line tone and Jamal’s cries turn to frantic.
Oh my God! An expanding blot of bright red blood forms under the gauze on his chest where a tube protrudes and runs to the blaring box. The fluid in the line turns red near his chest.
Grandpa hurries to the elevator. The pole’s wheels jiggle and shimmy, hindering his urgency. He punches the up button and, thankfully, the doors open instantly.
Between Jamal’s screams and the alarm it’s hard not to panic. I keep the elevator open as he fights with the pole and wagon.
“What floor?” I ask as I get on the elevator..
“Four.” That’s Carson’s floor. That’s oncology.
Elevator music, screams, and alarms blend into a surreal orchestra as Grandpa stares ahead, jaw clenching with each scream.
I take out a fresh tissue and wipe Jamal’s nose and tears.
Grandpa meets my eyes. I know he’s angry at himself. But he’s not really angry, he’s scared. That’s the way Rob is. Maybe that’s the way all men are, they turn their fear to something else, unable to confront their own terror.
“Thank you, ma’am. They can’t expect a boy to stay in that goddamn crib all day,” he chokes back an unexpected sob, almost unable to contain it. “He’s gotta get out and play. You’d think they could take this shit off him just for a few minutes!”
The door opens to the cancer ward. I hold it open as Grandpa scoots to the right with Jamal and pole.
I’m not supposed to be here. Carson isn’t supposed to be here.