The Release

November 3, 2016

An old man is lying in a hospital bed, raveled up in blue-tinged sheets. The walls are a calm beige color, and a wide bay window reveals seas of buildings bulging up throughout the horizon. Wires stick out of every appendage of the old man’s aged skin; he looks like a futuristic puppet, waiting for his strings to be pulled. A drooping bag of liquid hangs from a metal pole while a transparent tube carries clear liquid to the IV in his inner arm. His eyes are closed, but he is wide-awake, periodically wincing in pain. The monitor beside his bed supplies a steady beeep beeep beeep throughout the hollow walls. He begins to hear footsteps, and the sound increases to more rapidly paced tones.
A man in a black suit (John) approaches. He walks quickly towards the old man’s bed.
John: Alright, Walt. It’s almost time.
Walter: (Wincing) Just a few more minutes, at least give me that.
John begins carefully removing wires from Walter’s body in precise, diligent movements. Walter continues wincing, muttering something under his breath.
Walter: Are you sure it’s seven already? I swear to you, she’s coming.
John: It’s a quarter ‘till, Walt. She still might show up.
Walter: (After pausing in deep thought) You know why I planned the ceremony for seven, John?
John: (Smiling) Why’s that, Walt?
Walter: (suddenly excited) In our town, the church bells always rang at seven. And one particular Sunday morning, they went on chiming as they always did. But the thing is, on this particular day, they chimed right as I saw her walking out of the chapel doors. She was wearing her yellow Sunday dress, and she was just so matter-of-fact about the way she walked. I swear to you, John, each step she took fell in line with each chime, as if God himself was introducing us. (Pauses in thought)
John: That’s real sweet, Walter. I’m sure she’ll show up soon.
Gwen enters the hospital room, wearing a crisply ironed button up, grey pencil skirt, and tall high heels. She is balancing a clipboard on her forearm, while reaching for the pencil tucked in her bun.
Gwen: How are you feeling, Walter?
Walter: (Still wincing in pain) Just great, Gwen. Thanks.
Gwen: Well, we must get you up and going for briefing. We will increase your pain tolerance medicine in the meantime, okay?
Walter: And what’s the point of that? I’m going to die anyways.
Gwen: (Sighs) We want to make sure your ceremony of release is as peaceful for you as possible, Walter. I understand these are difficult circumstances, but this is the date and time you chose.
Walter: Just give it a few more minutes; I know she’s coming. Tiffany is coming.
Gwen smiles and pulls John out into the hall.
Gwen: What are we going to do John? He’s not going to give it up.
John: I don’t know; just give the poor man a chance. She’s all he has.
Gwen: Are you crazy? He has acute dementia, and not to mention, our files show no record of any Tiffany Andrews. She’s probably dead, John, if she exists. I mean… she hasn’t come to visit him for the three years he’s been in here.
John: The man is dying, Gwen. He planned his funeral to coincide with the exact day and time he thinks he met her, for God’s sake. The least you could do is give the guy some hope…
Gwen: Five minutes, that’s it. (Gwen begins to turn away)
John: Gwen, wait! (Gwen turns around) Is there anyone in there waiting for him? Anyone at all?
Gwen: (Looks solemnly down at her clipboard, then back up at John) The priest. (Walks away)
John hesitantly enters Walter’s room again.
John: Well Walt, I bought us five more minutes. What do you say we do one last game? (John gestures to a deck of playing cards on Walter’s bedside table)
Walter: (Smiles) You know John, you’re the only kid I’ve met who still knows what these things are. You wanna cut?
John pulls a chair up to Walter’s bed and splits the deck of cards.
John: You’re a good man, Walter. A real good man.
Walter: For God’s sake, John, we cut the deck every time, you think I couldn’t still cheat if I wanted?
John: (laughs) Now that’s a secret I thought you’d take to your deathbed.
Walter chuckles and begins shuffling the cards.
John: So, where did she go, Walter?
Walter: That uptight nurse? God if I know, she damn near took me out with those heels-
John: You know what I mean.
Walter: Tiffany? Well, we lived together in this tiny apartment in the city. We were dirt poor, and all we had was each other. But that was always enough.
John: Where is she now?
Walter: Well John, she left. Right after my accident.
John: Then how come you think she’s showing up today?
Walter begins dealing the cards and looks at John, suddenly very confused.
Walter: Well, I just know
John: Do you remember why you’re in here, Walt?
Walter: Of course I do… (Walter looks very puzzled becomes extremely frustrated)
John: You were in a car accident didn’t remember anything. You’re very sick now, that’s why you chose to die today. And, well, we haven’t heard from Tiffany at all, Walt.
Walter throws the cards down, and gets up suddenly. He paces the hospital room and mumbles frantically under his breath. Walter is breathing heavily, crying and throwing things around the room.
John: Walt, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.
Walter suddenly stands up rididly and calms down.
Walter: I’m going to get dressed now. I’m ready.
In the next scene, John enters the chapel and sits down in the third row of pews. There is a preacher standing in the front, along with Gwen, who is scribbling things nervously on her clipboard.
Walter enters the room in a three-piece suit, cleanly shaven. He walks confidently to the front of the chapel, where there is an open casket. Next to the casket is a silver table with a glass bottle and syringe placed on it.
Walter looks at the pastor, takes a deep breath, and begins to speak.
Walter: Do you think I can take this one, Reverend?
Pastor: Of course.
The pastor takes a seat.
Walter: Well, I guess this is it. Today I’ve chosen lethal injection, just because all the other ways on the list they gave me would have taken too long. Not that I’m in a hurry or anything, but I’m not exactly contributing to society by laying around in a hospital bed.
Usually at these kind of things, family members get up and share their favorite memories. The pastor shares a few Bible verses, talks about how these ceremonies lead to the betterment of society and how I’ll be going to a better place. I suppose I’d even tell you about my life. But as you can see, I don’t really have any family. And I don’t have that much to say about myself either, if you want to know the truth. I don’t want to use the last words of my life talking about myself. I want to talk about her.
Gwen: Walter…
Walter pauses, and tears form in his eyes.
Walter: I know I haven’t shut up about her since I’ve been sick. And I know you all think she’s this crazy dream I made up in my mind to get me through the days. But to me, she’s real. Honest to God, I thought she’d be here today. So, I want someone to give this to her...
Walter sets a note on the front bench.
Walter: Tiffany is the most amazing person I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. We have always loved each other, and I know that somehow, we always will. I know my time is up, but I will forever be thankful for the time I have spent with her. I will always be thankful for those Saturday mornings, when I woke up to the smell of pancakes and she’d be making a mess in the kitchen with a little splotch of flour on her nose. How she always sang these little songs she made up in her mind when she was bored. How she’d stay up scribbling things in her journal, how she always had something profound to say even if I was the only one who listened. Or how she always knew what she wanted, and she always got what she wanted. Even me.
But most of all, I want to thank Tiffany for being the most beautiful thing in my life, and for making flowers grow in my heart, even when all that was there was a whole lot of dirt.
I love you, Tiff. I always will.
Walter is crying silently now. He walks toward the casket.
John: Are you ready Walter?
Walter: As ready as I ever will be.
John approaches Walter as he gets into the casket. John begins filling the syringe with liquid from the glass bottle. John is crying too, now, and he brings the needle to Walter’s forearm.
Walter: Thank you John, you’ve been so kind to me. You’re a good man, you really are.
John: Thank you, Walt.
John inserts the syringe into Walter’s arm. Walter begins convulsing violently.
John turns away, unable to watch. After 30 seconds, Walter finally is still.
John: (Whispering) Time of death, 7:37.
Suddenly, loud footsteps approach from a distance. The pastor, Gwen, and John turn around, confused. The chapel doors swing open, and an elderly woman enters.
Tiffany: (Yelling) WALT!

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