Five family members crowded into a room big enough to hold a bed and two lumpy vinyl armchairs. For weeks, we had taken turns sitting by his bedside, obsessing over flattened pillows, food, oxygen tubes; basically, fussing over him until he shooed us away with a frown and agitated flick of his arm. After nurses predicted his end loomed near, life halted and we converged all at once.
I had been the last to arrive. I found a space in the dimly lit lot and had just pulled the parking brake when Mom reached my car.
“He passed away!” She took a long drag of her cigarette and slowly released the smoke through her thin lips.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t get here earlier.” She pulled me toward the hospice building, pausing a moment to squash the cigarette butt on the curb. Over my shoulder, I clicked the remote twice, locking doors and setting the car alarm.
We entered the room, interrupting a stunned silence.
“He’s got a pulse,” the nurse said, shaking her head. “There was none, but it’s back. This hasn’t happened before.”
“S-so, he’s not dead?” I cringed at my bluntness.
The nurse shook her head.
“Well, I’ll be,” Grandma said, frasmotic over the loss and return of her beloved. She twisted a tissue around fidgety fingers.
My family moved aside and I squeezed through an opening smaller than my girth.
“Hi, Grandpa,” I said, grasping his chilled fingers. I didn’t know what else to say.
Mom nudged me. “Tell him it’s okay to go,” she whispered in my ear.
“I’m not saying that!”
“He waited for you.”
I sniffed back tears. He spent his life showing me how to be tough. I had to show him he succeeded.
“Talk to him,” Mom said.
“Um… hi, Grandpa. It’s me.” I held his hand. Words escaped me.
Mom nudged again.
“Mom says it’s okay for you to go. We’ll take care of Grandma.” There. I’d said it. I released his veiny, thin-skinned hand and moved away from the bed. I skirted out of the room to the freedom of the hallway.
By the time I returned, Grandma held his hand. A nurse checked his vitals every half hour. On the fourth check, she announced he had no pulse.
“Are you sure?” Grandma asked, skeptical of contrafibularities, with his first death and spontaneous resuscitation, and all. “He won’t fool me again!” She pulled at the wadded tissue in her hands.
Minutes later, the nurse confirmed he had indeed passed away. Mixed emotions swirled. Relief over suffering’s end mingled with sorrow that his life had become a memory.
Each person in the room slipped from Grandpa’s bedside, trickling into the hallway and into the lobby.
I sat there and waited, but he never came back.
This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 464) with (1) “I sat there and waited, but he never came back.” as the last sentence, and (2) some reference to the media prompt, which was a clip of Blackadder the Third, entitled C is for Contrafibularity. (I used 2 words from the video: frasmotic and contrafibularities.)
This story is fictional, however, it is loosely based on actual events. Grandpa really did die twice, puzzling the nurses.
The prompt is open to anyone, so if you want to give it a try, check out the badge below for full prompt information. Have a beautiful week!