Deathbed

Waking up had never felt so important. As David Blanchett gasped himself awake, the crowd around him murmured in relief. They had thought he was gone, and he had been.

“Dad, we thought we lost you.”

“It’s a miracle.”

They crammed around the bed, trying their best to hug him through the wires and the tubes. They touched his hands. He tried to squeeze back.

“Give him some space. He’s had a long day.” The doctor pulled away Kaitlin, the youngest, and the rest of the family dispersed behind her and out the door. Kaitlin lingered another moment, and as Timothy, the oldest, grabbed her shoulder, she took a deep swallow. “I love you, Daddy,” she said, and as though she’d said something wrong, scampered off into the hallway.

A few days later, he left the hospital. The kids were at school, but his wife drove him home. “What do you think it’s going to cost?” she asked.

“I don’t know. You can’t really put a price tag on your health.”

Regina seemed to contemplate this premise until they were home. She opened up a can of beans and emptied it into a plastic microwavable container. When it was hot, she set it in front of him and made to leave.

He coughed. “I thought we might celebrate later.”

“But darling, you hate celebrations.” She kissed him on the forehead and got in the car.

When the kids came home, they rushed past him to the living room, where they had an Xbox. He followed after.

“What’s that you’re playing there? Some game?”

“Nothing,” said Timothy, shutting off the console. The rest of them scampered off behind him. “Please don’t be mad. It’s my fault.”

David said nothing.

“Aren’t you going to hit him, Daddy?”

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