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"Leavable", short story excerpt

Thursday 4/23/20

“By time I mean more of it,” my uncle contended. When the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan and Paul McCartney had just sung “Yesterday,” John Lennon said, “Thank you Paul, that was just like him.” What my uncle said about time was just like him. One of those people who could think of himself as close to someone he wasn’t close to. He and my dad were probably close for a while. My dad considered him a momma’s boy. Old term whose meaning has never gone away, even if it’s not used. There was a miracle story from the floor upstairs. Someone in a coma had not only come out of it but had veritably leapt from the bed, asking where their coffee was, which was apparently how they awoke each morning pre-coma. His wife said so. We wouldn’t have known her if she wasn’t going around telling everyone. I thought she was selfish. My father was going to die and I wanted to make the call. I felt if I killed him, gave the official go-ahead, I’d have made my first big decision as head of the household. In a fashion. For my mom and my sisters. You couldn’t tell anyone your motivation. But it was going to happen anyway. Had happened, all but officially. “People need to say goodbye,” my uncle contended further. We were in the hall. Courts and hospitals possess hallway similarities. Interstitial overlap. You go out of main rooms, the business ends of hospitals and courthouses, and you negotiate. Barter with lawyers, barter with relatives, barter with death, your conscience. Then you go back in. “You’re the least-leavable person I could ever imagine, that’s why this is so hard,” my wife said when she broke down and I knew we wouldn’t try ever again. I used to tell her my father would have really liked her, made it sound like this was rare, a special respect afforded, but my father was a man who worked to like people. Maybe he worked at it with his brother. Maybe his brother worked at it with him. My uncle’s eyes were raw in the hall. You wanted to put axle grease on them. I’d never looked at eyes before and thought of meat. He’d flown out immediately. Within an hour. His kids, too. All separately, from different states where they had different lives. Not his wife. The kind of person not to be expected, and later you try to remember whether they had been there or not. My friend as well, who was on the last day of a vacation in New Orleans, but when I phoned and told him my father was going to die he took another week off that he didn’t have. Never said how much it cost him or how he had to get it. We’re not friends anymore. Some of your best friends are the people you’re no longer friends with because friendship isn’t as much about people as it is people in a moment in time. There are always three parts to friendship, never two. I don’t know how many parts there are to death. When my father died you couldn’t tell he was dead. My words put nothing in motion. Didn’t come to that. The machines kept doing what they were doing. Staff must have read some telltale meaning in those twilled lines that went across the face of seemingly every apparatus. With most sports you know when the game is over. Thoroughly. A horn sounds. Final out recorded. Thud of the mitt. In soccer, there’s no clock to watch. The end always comes as a surprise, even when you mostly know when it will come. Maybe that’s why a lot of doctors like that sport.


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