Ode on Sons and Their Fathers

Ode on Sons and Their Fathers

A Story by M Baker

The young man stood in the noisy corridor of the deceptively sanitary-looking grime of the county hospital.  Nurses and orderlies, with the occasional doctor, swept past him.  The wind from their gaits gently whipped up a few petals of his black wavy hair in their direction, as if the locks wished give chase and ask some important question.  The heavy wooden door was closed, but the man could already envision what lay on the other side.  He knew that the debilitated, bleak mass of the old man lay in an adjustable bed, crumpling stiff sheets in his swollen hands.  He saw the great charcoal tint on the old man’s face, a product of days without shaving.  Above all else, he understood that what lay behind this door was the inexorable dissipation of a life and the sheer humiliation of what defeat looked like.


            The young man inhaled deeply and placed his thin, healthy hand on the doorknob.  He noted the clarity of his skin and how the lush, bulging veins protruded upward ever-so-slightly from just under their protective coat.  He slowly pushed open the door and entered.  The room was not well-lit; only a sliver of sunlight managed to break through the drawn vinyl curtains covering the narrow windows.  It was silent, as if the eternal footman had already made his stop for the day.  Eventually, the young man heard the old man’s unsteady breathing.  The breath roiled in and out of the cramped lungs like sea waves at night.  Under the breathy sounds, the young man heard the soft white drone of the monitors and IV-drips. 


            As he closed the door behind him and took measured steps deeper into the darkness of the room, the young man caught the first glimpse of the old man.  For some reason, he did not see the patient lying before him, but instead images of holiday aliments long-past flashed through his brain.  The bread loaves rising in baking pans that were the old man’s feet.  The crushed tawny yams, pocked with small dots of raisin that resembled the old man’s complexion.  The giant stuffed roast turkey, golden and saturated that was the old man’s bloated torso.  And whiskey.


            The young man sat in the chair at the foot of the bed.  He met the old man’s cloudy eyes.  For a brief moment, the young man thought he saw something in them.  Maybe some semblance of recognition or atonement?  Some embarrassment or regret?  But then whatever it was scurried away back behind the milky figments.  It was crucial to convey genuine concern, to commiserate.  He asked the old man how he was feeling.  Terrible, the old man said.  That was to be expected, the young man responded.  Terrible, the young man thought to himself.  Even now, the old man was still a b*****d.  He could not even bring himself to put on a fighting effort for his loved ones.  Misery brought him to this place, and misery would remain his dancing partner to the end.  Everyone else had to simply put up with it, and the old man knew that they would.  Little more than talk of football, work, school, and the like were bandied back and forth between the two men.  The sum total of the visit itself was less than fifteen minutes before the old man mentioned his growing exhaustion.  This was a clue for the young man to make his departure.  As he lifted himself from the chair, the young man wanted to say something else.  He moved to the door and left.  


            Back at the house, the young man sat in a graying room with the window blinds shutting out the waning summer sun.  The only sounds came from the muted television left on in the corner of the room.  He sat at a desk with his hands folded in front of him.  A cigarette burned in a glass ash-tray nearby.  The purple smoke danced its way upward then darted to and fro with the slight shift in the air.  Directly in front of the young man’s eyes sat a small rectangular frame.  Inside the frame was a photograph of a virile specimen of his early thirties.  Dressed in a plain white tee and torn jeans, the man in the photograph was lifting a weighted shovel of earth.  In this picture and as with the shovel, the man could grasp onto anything life offered with those strong, sinewy arms.  Beads of sweat--the replenishing sweat of life--could be seen on the forehead and biceps.  The full and furrowed brow of the man revealed his constitution.  And the eyes, the clear and hazel eyes; there was something in them.  They exuded a spirit of hope and wistfulness only found in a confident younger man. 


            The young man sat and stared for hours at the photograph of his father.  He saw all of himself wrapped up in this frozen and, essentially, meaningless moment in time, encapsulated by Kodachrome.  He took a drag of the shortened cigarette then snubbed it out in the tray.  Then he reached for the half-emptied glass of amber liquid at the edge of the desk.  The ice rode the wake of motion and clanked against the sides of the tumbler.  It would end soon; soon enough, anyhow.  After all the procedures and drugs, the convoluted stares of compassion mixed with general antipathy, it would be over.  His father would be dead, and the family could put it all behind them.  Remember the good times and let it be over.  The end of the pain brought on by years of self-destruction and self-pity.  It would all be over.  The young man placed the picture frame face down on the desk and took a drink. 

© 2011 M Baker

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Added on April 8, 2011
Last Updated on April 8, 2011


M Baker
M Baker

Raleigh, NC

Just a run-of-the-mill malcontent and aspiring writer. Those really are one in the same, I suppose. I have hopes of one day completing a full-length novel. For now I am working on expanding several.. more..

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