Great

Between the electronic murmurs of medicinal apparatuses, Sandy heard the sound of her own heartbeat. It was not in sync with any of the other noises, nor did it seem to belong to her, but she felt it vibrate across her chest, deeply and firmly like longing. Her grandfather’s heart seemed so shallow in comparison, shrill and underfoot, announcing its presence as a U-boat might announce an enemy ship. He would not die until he wanted to. He would lie here beeping forever out of spite.

She felt that maybe she should grab his hand. She had never touched her grandfather before, but now, when he wasn’t conscious, she thought that maybe she could steal this last bit of life for herself if she gave it a vessel. “You kids have it easy these days,” he had said at every opportunity. “With your social media and your video games, you don’t even have to talk to people anymore.” This could be the first time in ten years he hadn’t lambasted her in a tone of envy and resentment for existing in the modern age.

As her hand brushed against his, his eyes opened widely. He stared up at her without recognition. In a moment, after he had taken in his surroundings and his grandchild, he scowled, choosing one of his ready-made conversations. He had paid his way through college waiting tables. “Why don’t you pay your way through college waiting tables?” He had gotten married at twenty-two to a women he’d talked to twice. “Why don’t you get married? What are you waiting for?” He had beaten and shamed his wife and children at every opportunity. “I want to be a great grandfather.”

Sandy held her grandfather’s hand in her own, as he was too weak to pull away. She let her heart pulse against his circuitry, hoping the vibration would knock something loose, and she would get the apology she and the rest of the family deserved.

“I forgive you,” he said in his final breath. She continued to hold on.

#death, #deathbed, #hearts, #hospitals, #millennials, #old-people, #progression

Comfort

Greta didn’t have a key anymore to the old house, and though her parents lived far away from civilization and had nothing worth stealing, they kept their estate secure. She’d grown up in this unfamiliar place. As she waited for her mother to walk herself to the door, she looked across the wasted farmland to the nearest semblance of a landmark, the tombstones of her grandparents.

The door opened. “Oh it’s you,” her mother said, neither joyful or dismissive. Greta followed the pace of the walker to the back of the house and her father’s bed. His deathbed, soon enough. Her mother collapsed in her favorite chair, and though she didn’t sleep and hardly ever did, Greta felt like she was alone in the room with her dad. He wasn’t awake, but he was breathing. His breathing was loud and augmented by machines.

“You’ve never felt pain,” her mother said behind her, “so you don’t understand.”

Her dad had always snored, and it was strange to see him sleep without snarling. Now that he was quiet, she wanted to talk to him.

“We kept you comfortable all your life,” her mother said. “You never so much as scraped your knee. All you know about suffering is we made you brush your teeth, we made you eat broccoli. You were spoiled, child, spoiled rotten, and you never recovered.”

Greta grabbed her father’s hand, though she couldn’t remember touching him before. He had a warmth to him she didn’t expect, because he wasn’t yet dead. Machines were keeping him alive in a way he’d never been able to do himself.

“We never beat you like we should have. We loved you too much.”

Greta never beat her parents either. And soon it would be too late.

#death, #memory, #microfiction, #parents, #sickness, #weird

Ghost

As his fiancee returned from his funeral, Arturo held her hand. She had no idea he was there, but he could feel her. Maybe she looked around for him. Maybe she sensed him.

He couldn’t tell what she was feeling. Some things don’t change.

As she turned on daytime television, he watched her. He’d never been able to look so long without her swatting him away. “It’s not cancer. I’m pregnant, and it’s your brother’s!” He was able to take in the whole of her body, which looked good in black. “Impossible! My brother’s been dead for three years!”

He put a hand on her shoulder, and she didn’t seem to notice. He tried massaging her, and before long, she was starting to relax. He worked his way down, moving more gently than he could have with his old awkward hands. He touched her breast. It was the first time she’d allowed him to touch her, maybe the first time she’d been touched. “He’s not my brother; he’s my father!”

Pressing deeper, he felt his hand on his chest. He felt vaguely afraid, and somehow more fascinated by the soaps. Distraction was important. How long before he should start dating again? At least he hadn’t been too in love, he heard himself think, and a wave of guilt afterward.

He couldn’t tell what he was feeling.

Since he was alone in the house, he had no need to quantify. Instead, he quietly learned the parts of his vagina over his clothes and prepared to face oblivion.

#death, #ghost, #lovers, #microfiction, #supernatural