The doctor asked us in the E.R. if we had noticed anything different in recent days before Daddy’s nosebleed, speech impediment, and his crippled arm that look superglued to his side and not moving when he commanded and cursed it. I was puzzled why the doctor thought that what happened before mattered. Any idiot could tell Daddy’d had a stroke. Behavior leading up to it wouldn’t change a thing.
“He seemed red in the face, was grumpier than usual, and got in a fist fight with our old neighbor, Mr. Willis,” Mom said.
“Old neighbor? How old was he?” the doctor asked.
“Fist fight about what?” He was writing on the chart and looking over his glasses on the bridge of his nose.
“Our pear tree limb hung over in his yard. We’d always let him keep the pears on his side of the fence, but he lopped the limb off without asking. Said he needed prunes, not pears. I didn’t hear it all, but I called the sheriff to break it up. I yelled from the porch, but they weren’t stopping. Sheriff told them he’d put them both in jail if they did it again. He didn’t have time for their shenanigans with all the drugs he has to deal with.”
The doctor shook his head. “With hardening of the arteries added to an already decreased blood flow, people begin to act more like children.”
Mama leaned toward the bed and said, “Jack?”
Dad’s eyes moved toward her.
“His eye movements are a good sign. We’re going to go ahead and get that left artery scheduled. It’s like a roto-rooter going in there and breaking up that plaque, so he can get better flow. We’re like old cars. Need new hoses, points and plugs, lube job every now and then.”
Daddy nodded and we said, “Thank you.” The doctor bolted, and daddy’s head turned in the pillow, his eyes closed, and Mama whispered to me: “I’m gonna go by the store and get Mr. Willis some prune juice and tell him your daddy is in the hospital and he’s sorry. It’ll make Mr. Willis feel better about it all and not be scared.”
Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections Reading the Coffee Grounds and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in seventeen anthologies, twenty-one countries, and in over three hundred publications. http://nilesreddick.com/