Only Once – Roady Series episode 8

Hospitals are not on my list of favorite places. There’s the whole idea of the balance between life and death that smells like antiseptic. Not a terrible smell, just a smell and I’ve only been down a hall and up an elevator and I’ve had enough of it.

“You arrived at the right time,” a nurse tells us. “She just moved out of ICU.” She takes us to the doorway of Mom’s room. Her bed is next to the window. There’s a woman with grey wiry hair in the first bed. A young woman sits in a chair next to the bed. They’re looking at something on her I-pad. Jason bounds past them knocking against the bed. I look at the floor and apologize for his energetic entry.

Mom has her leg in a mint green cast propped up on bolsters. A jagged cut with black stiches follows her jawline. She is pale nestled in white cotton blankets and IV attached to her arm.

“JJ!” she says trying to find the button to raise her bed. Jason pulls himself up to stand on the edge of her bed holding unto the railing. “Mama,” he says. “Are you going to die?”

“No, Honey. I’m not. Come get a hug.” But it’s not a hug, it’s a hand on his shoulder. “Get off the bed now,” she says. He eyes a package of crackers on her nightstand.

“Can I have those?” he asks.

“Yes, JJ go ahead.”

Jason busies himself with opening the crackers. Mom turns her eyes to me.

“I told Stan I didn’t want him to call you.”

“Well, he did.” I can’t look her in the eye. Jason has taken a seat in the chair. I go to the window and open the curtains. The parking lot it dotted with small trees, people walking, cars. I look back to Mom. She has her hand over her eyes. She’s crying.

“I am so sorry,” she says wiping her nose with her hand.

I take a deep breath. “What happened?”

“It was not my fault,” she says.

“I’m not talking about the damn accident,” I raise my voice just a bit then turn back to the window.

“There was another car. It went through the red light, not me.” She continues with her story. “The motorcycle was in front. I knew that. The other guy, he swerved to miss the cycle and hit both of us. It all happened so fast, I didn’t have time to react.”

I watch as an ambulance pulls in, lights flashing. Someone else having a bad day. It disappears from view leaving me to guess what’s wrong. Maybe a heart attack or someone hurt on the job? Makes me think of Dan, how he was rushed to the hospital because I lifted those boards with the fork truck without checking if anyone was near, without calling out a ‘head’s up’, without taking the time to restrain them with the safety ropes. Dan said later that he didn’t blame me. That it’s happened before. That he should have had his hard hat on. But I know, no matter what he says, it was my fault because I was buzzed from a night of guzzling whiskey. Why was I drinking? Because my application for a scholarship to go to college was rejected. I might as well have thrown myself down the stairs for how far off track I put my life with that stupid thinking. I have not had a drop of alcohol since.

“Tyler please,” she says. “Look at me.”

I turn around. “Is it because I left?”

“No!” she says emphatically. “No. Tyler it’s not you. It was only once anyway. My bad luck that the other guy ran the light. Really. Just once.”

I’ve heard this kind of talk before. It’s once and never again until the next ‘once’. “Is it Stan and the beer, the cigarettes?”

“I hate beer and no, I’m not smoking.”

But I can tell the way she says it, she’s doing both. I shake my head. Jason munches on crackers, swinging his legs.

“I guess there’s no point to us having this conversation, is there?”

She puts her hand over her eyes again. “Tyler please don’t think bad of me. I’m hurting. I need you to believe me. Please.” She lifts her eyes to me, red and watery.

“Don’t cry Mama,” Jason says his voice plaintive and sweet.

He sounds just like me at that age.

Read this series from episode 1 by choosing the category- “Roady Series” – Find it in the drop down “menu” at the header of this blog. ————————————————————————————— This post is fiction based on the back story of a supporting character in a novel in process by Clare Graith. See for more info about the author.

Truth Be Told – Roady Series 7

Sometimes you want something that will forever be out of your grasp but still every day in the back of your mind you think stupid stuff like, “Mom is happy. She’s got a good life with Stan maybe not all perfect but not trying to do it alone.” I was eight when she said she was marrying him. I cried but she told me it would work out in the end, and we would never be hungry and she would never get high, never even smoke a cigarette. It was a small price to pay to be under Stan’s foot. When did she start again? Was it because I left? Was it my fault? How could everything go so wrong? Demons follow me in my sleep. Cars crashing, people yelling, me climbing over a fence with Big Al and his machete after me. Then there’s a baby screaming in a bag of dirty laundry, and Linda laying on a blanket without a stitch of clothes, waiting for me until Jake shows up in some kind of a uniform and now he has a machete. As the knife comes down on me, I sit up thrust out of sleep, out of breath, sweat on my brow. Roady groans and presses his feet into my side. I lay back down but I can’t sleep any more.

I must have dozed off anyway because I open my eyes to the sound of tapping on the window and the faces of Jason, Liam and Clinton pressed against the glass staring at me. What is it with these kids and looking at me? I sit up. Jason opens the door and invites himself into my bed.
“How come you’re sleeping outside?”
“I’m not outside.”
Clinton joins Jason in the back seat and Liam sits up front.
“Why don’t you sleep on the couch?”
“Because I’m sleeping here. Everyone out,” I say.
The whole clan piles out, Roady runs off and squats on a patch of weeds to pee. The kids follow me to the kitchen where Junior is sitting at the table eating a huge bowl of cereal. Good at least one of these kids knows how to take care of himself. I make them all eggs and toast then thankfully the oldest three are off to school. Stan is still asleep. Jason says he always sleeps after work. He’s content to watch television and eat dry cereal from a bowl. But I can’t stand to be in this house. I convince Jason to take his bowl and sit in the back seat of the car. Roady sits in the passenger seat, alert and on guard. I feel like I should put a seat belt on him he acts so much like a person. He gives me a soft huff as he notices I’m looking at him.
“You’re a good dog Roady.”
I get another huff for that.
I drive with no destination in mind. I just want to see what’s going on. I know I’ve betrayed myself when I see the big red sign, “Emergency Entrance”. I’ve driven up and down streets and ended up at the hospital. I have to do it. Not because I can’t stand the thought of coming upon Linda and having her say how terrible I am again. Not because Jason is in the back seat looking like a sad puppy, so small to be left in the care of Stan. I have to because I need to hear from her what’s been going on. I need to know if I’m the reason she’s in this mess. As Jason and I take the elevator to the floor she’s on, my mouth goes dry. What will she say?

Read this series from episode 1 by choosing the category- “Roady Series” – Find it in the drop down “menu” at the header of this blog. ——————————————————————————————— This post is fiction based on the back story of a supporting character in a novel in process by Clare Graith. See for more info about the author.