You laugh, your chin held
high, your opaque eyes defiant. "You're a married man; you're
outrageous," you say. You say it clearly, but you're drunk, dizzy with
applause. You think you're in a soundproof cell, strong and free with
your bridle mum and half your life. So you place your hand on his knee
and laugh again. "You are outrageous," you say.
You toss and turn in your hollow bed,
bleached lips smacked with need. You close your eyes then stray,
footfall heavy in honest white. Your hair is too black, your hands too
big, but your hips move to an absent tune as you sleep.
A storm outside wakes you from sotted
rest. The music and the mania are replaced with silence and the howling
wind. It tears through the trees, telling you, reminding you of his
words. His careless and insidious words. And there's crying, a distant
pathetic bleat. You listen, ears finely tuned for the rend of a branch.
But there are no trees, no branches, no firm roots. Just litter strewn
streets, neon lights and your pale wet face.
She regards me, short fair hair,
petite. Her features creased in polite confusion, pale eyes glued to
mine, tiny hands held together outside her crisp uniform.
She gives me a moment and I stare in
disbelief, but her eyes don't flicker; she holds my gape with those
eyes, so calm, serene, so right.
The monitors wink above the bed, but
the lines and bleeps mean nothing to me. They've elucidated in their
flat chary tones, but it's too surreal; my father, vibrant one moment,
dying the next. I gaze at the man on the bed, welted with wires. I know
its dad, but I don't recognise him. Without the billow of his
character, his body seems hollow; yet there he is, huge feet protruding
from the narrow boat bed.
"Because he's my father; because I love
The words spurt from my mouth, louder
than intended. But her cool gaze makes them sound scant.
"And because he loves life, because
he's a fighter."
She shakes her head, almost
"You don't even know him," I yell.
The near-death curtains are drawn, the
chart still clasped in my fist. DO NOT RECUCCITATE it says. I touch my
father's face; skin pale and waxy, cheeks sunk. The lines of life that
etched his face have vanished. I take a comb from my handbag, rake the
fringe from his forehead. "Hey, you have no wrinkles," I whisper.
"It's the consultant's decision. He has
the final word." She blinks just a little too soon. "Now if you don't
She nods towards the ward, a forbearing
look on her fine features. I have the living to attend to, I hear her
say, but no words are spoken.
I lean towards my father. His whiskers
have grown overnight. "Don't you dare bloody die," I hiss.
Caroline England (England)
Caroline England is
a novelist and short story writer. Born in Yorkshire, she studied
Law at Manchester University and later worked as a solicitor. In
addition to the publication of her short story collection, Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses,
and her first novel, A
Slight Diversion (both as ACHUKAbooks e-books), Caroline has had short
stories and poems published in a variety of magazines such as Transmission, Parameter, Pipeline, Chimera, Lamport Court, Peace and Freedom Press,
Will Change Your Life, Recusant, Succour, Pen Pusher, Positive Words, Twisted Tongue, 14 Magazine,
Radgepacket, White Chimney, Visionary Tongue, Rain Dog, Crannog, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal,
and The Ugly Tree.
front page image is copyright ©
by Anthony Kitterick, 2012