Posted on May 3, 2014 by Patricia Ann McNair5.3.2014 Journal Prompt Photo by Stephen Shore May 3, 2014: He’d just arrived. Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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He’d taken a plane to Grenoble and then a taxi to the hospital. His son had had an accident and they’d phoned in the night. The details were sketchy. They said it was his leg and there were cuts on his head. He needed an operation.
He looked smaller in the hospital bed, he thought, like a boy again. And thinner too, painfully thin, like he’d not been eating for some time. He was awake but his words were few and small. They’d put a metal pin in his leg and they were waiting for the swelling to go down on his knee before proceeding. It was complicated, they said. Something about his blood being too thin, and they wanted to give him iron before going further. Everything was in French first and then broken into English. Some things slipped through the cracks in translation.
The doctors said he would be sleepy and he needed rest. He waited until the boy slipped into unconsciousness, then he carried his small suitcase to the hostel where he was to stay. The room was unfussy and everything neat and clean and straight. His window looked out onto gardens where peas and carrots and onions were growing in tidy green rows. Next door was a church and he heard the bell ringing the devout to midday prayers.
He called the boy’s mother on the phone to reassure her that it was going to be fine. She answered straight away and he knew she had been waiting for him to call. She reeled off a list of questions to which he had no answers and he felt then that he had somehow let her and the boy down by not asking the obvious. He’d call again after visiting, he said.
He lay back on the bed and felt suddenly tired and suddenly alone. He thought of praying, too, but the words lost all shape and all he had was tears. They spilled onto the pillow, warm and wet, something of relief in them. The cuts on his son’s head were superficial; it was just his leg that was the worry and the thinness of his blood.
He closed his eyes and drifted into a restless half-sleep and he dreamed of men in dark clothes with voices like the calls of crows, and water slipping through the clutch of his fingers, and losing his keys and his wife being cross with him for that.
When he woke it was to the sound of the church bell ringing again. He checked the time on his watch. It was past two. He got up from the bed and he retched and was sick in the small sink. He splashed water onto his face and the back of his neck. It spilled onto the floor and onto his shoes. He brushed his teeth and the water was cold and sharp and refreshed him a little. He dropped his toothbrush into the glass tumbler on the shelf above the sink and beneath the mirror. He ran his wet fingers through his hair and straightened his collar. He thought he looked old.
He unpacked his suitcase, putting his clothes into the drawers. Then he checked his pockets for money and for keys and stepped out, retracing his way back to the hospital, stopping briefly to buy fruit and something to drink and an English newspaper. His son was still asleep when he arrived. He sat quietly in the chair beside the bed and watched the boy, counting the seconds between each breath, and observing the bag of fluids silently drip-dripping into the boy’s arm.