28 Day Writing Challenge #27

By , Elk Grove, CA

My mother drove us to the hospital after dinner. No mention of my breakdown or anything else that conspired today. Instead, she plays fast classical music and hums along. When we get there, the sun has set. The sky matches the asphalt below, and the building stands out like a beacon of hope, as much hope as you can find at the emergency room. Waiting patiently for the receptionist to notify the doctor, my mom scrolls her phone. I regret leaving mine at home, but at the same time I don't expect any calls soon. This moment should be all about my dad. My thoughts should focus on him getting better. Focus, on him getting back to us. But I never liked to think too far ahead. The pixie like doctor from before eagerly hops in front of us like she's not work in in a building full of despair and soon to be dead people. My mom can only silently glare at the woman's tight, half buttoned top in disapproval. "You must be the wife," she says to my mother, for the second time jumping to the wrong conclusion about a relationship status, "Let's have you two follow me back to see him, alright?" "He's my ex." My mom throws out, and she nods before turning on her heel and leading us clicking and clacking down the hall. The grey walls scream asylum and my dad looks like he belongs here. That's not a good thing. He has gauze up and down both arms, and his right leg. There's a bandaid poised above his eyebrow but otherwise his face rings of normalcy. He smiles when we come in, a surprised look when he sees my mother. "No librarian bun today, hon?" He jokes, a deep chuckle rising from his diaphragm. It ricochets off the walls. "I'll leave you to it." The nurse says, in the administrative voice that haunts me at school. None of us have anything to say to that, all though my mom is more than likely telepathically urging her to exit. Without Bubbles M.D. here to direct us, we stand in silence for a minute. Thoughts gather and bubble up only to cede back into the self doubting cesspool of our minds. "Kevin. I'll bet you're higher than a kite." My mom says, making me feel awkward as one tends to when parents use first names. "Its notna usual thing, mind you. Homeless people get a bad rap for substance abuse." This brings a half smile to her face. She's more relaxed than I've seen her in a long time. Usually she's this calm only when at the library, rhythmically sorting books and clicking keys. I notice just now, as my parents eyes lock, that she put on a bit of makeup. "Not all homeless people. You would know, being the only homeowner without a house." I chime in. There's a light turned of inside of me, as if all the residue of my earlier breakdown have been reduced to shadows murdered by the new happiness. I approach my dad, looking at his head propped on the cardboard starched pillow. "I'm so glad you're OK." I tell him. His eyes bare approval. My old man, my homeless deadbeat dad, looks very strong lying in a hospital bed. It's an internal strength reflected in his expression, and posture. The layer of sadness peeled from his countenance, leaving only the rediscovered boy of his youth. My mom clears her throat. I wonder if she can see his confidence? I decide to leave the room, translating her knowing glance. As I walk out the door I'm almost run over by a trio of elderly women carrying flowers. A brisk apology floats their way and I walk the other direction. Flowers. What a lovely gesture. Bringing a bit of nature and beauty to people who can't experience either. I need to get my dad something, the sudden inadequacy of my mere presence is what motivates me to dig in my pocket for cash. I have five dollars. When I return to the hospital room, my parents are laughing together. It's a sound I haven't heard in a while, better than any sort of music in the cheesiest, most nostalgic way. I set my gifts at the small table opposite the bed. "Sustinence!" My mom proclaims, smiling from ear to ear. She picks up the present: cosmic brownies from little Debbie, and hands one to my dad. "You shouldn't have, Carson." Says my father, sitting up to eat. He winks at me, even though my mother can see obviously. This makes us crack up again. I devour the brownie, which was only 50¢. Money well spent.

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