Sep 142010

by Gale Acuff

While Father dies, Mother fishes in her

pocketbook to find twenty-five cents, my

allowance for the week. I was hoping

for more but I shouldn’t be selfish now

more than ever. I pocket it. She says

Go in there and say goodbye to Father.

Alright, I say. The nurse is coming out

and I bump her in a soft, padded place,

on her, I mean. I’m only 8 and she

must be over 30. That’s pretty grown.

Excuse me, she says, and smiles. I smile, too.

I stand beside Father’s hospital bed.

He’s wired up like a fancy TV set.

He’s got tubes in his nose. They help him breathe

because at the other end there’s pure air.

Oxygen.  That sounds like Oxydol, my

mother’s favorite laundry soap but it’s

not the same. Maybe half the same. “Oxy-.”

Hello, son, Father says. Or should I say

goodbye? He smiles. I smile. Mother gave me

my allowance, I say. I’m off the hook,

then, he says. He smiles again. So do I.

I look around for a hook. Where’s the hook,

I ask. It’s a figure of speech, he says.

Oh, I say. What’s that? Well, ask your mother

when I’m gone, he says. Okay, I say. Where

are you going? I’m not too sure, he says.

But I’ll be gone soon. You’ll have to take care

of your mother. Okay, I’ll say. I’ll quit

school and get a job. He smiles. I do, too.

Stay in school, he say. That’s how to help her.

Okay, I say. I was hoping for no

more tests. He shuts his eyes. I shut mine. But

I peek. He doesn’t. This must be what death

is, at least on my side of it. It’s not

so bad so far. I guess I won’t know more

about it ’til it happens to me. His

mouth opens. He says nothing. I hear it.

The nurse comes back. I’m sorry, she says, but

he’s gone. That’s a figure of speech, I say.