Friday, May 9, 2008


Here's a new installment in Jeff and my 'hospital' series. Again, Jeff writes the dream sequences and I write the narrative. Hi-yaa!

little girl visiting her mother who has cancer

Shelby’s mom would always tell her it was too much tv, but she continued to watch the screen anyway. The IVs and tubes and heart monitor blips originating from her mom’s frame were not enough to distract. Shelby wanted home, she wanted a stuffed bear and blanket, she wanted to swim in her pool and feed her bunny rabbit. She didn’t understand why her mother was laid out in this shiny room. The story they had just finished reading was about a magical caterpillar who transformed after hiding inside a cocoon. It had glorious wings upon its great escape. Shelby looked from the television to the wide windows on her left. How many caterpillars were out there now? Shelby was not told, yet, about her mother’s terminal cancer. The child kept chanting December, over and over, contemplating Christmas and requesting gift after gift from her mother. But it was March; there was too much time between then and now.

Shelby’s mother watched the child hide away within the confines of the television program. She drifted and fell into medicated sleep. When Shelby turned around to ask when her father would be back from the cafeteria, she saw the still body of her mother and smiled. She climbed out from the hospital chair and scurried up the side of the bed. Her mother’s face was pristine, peaceful if Shelby knew what that meant. Shelby sunk into the bed between the siderail and her mother’s hips. She was small enough that her body could fit snuggly in most places, here being the best, of course. Shelby closed her eyes and fell asleep too.


Shelby was on a bus. A field trip in the snowy winter landscape of
Colorado. She was with a group of about 20 students from all over America.
Shelby felt lonely. The bus ended up in the fast paced urban environment of an
anonymous downtown. Shelby followed her peers into a restaurant. Pictures were
being taken and all were having fun, all except Shelby. She left the group and
walked the streets alone. Snow flurries fell and covered the earth with a
dirty white slush. Shelby cried. She walked and walked until she found her
bus. It seemed like the night would go on forever.


Shelby woke suddenly to the spasm of her mother coughing. She shrieked and a nurse lifted her from the bed. They asked Shelby to go into the hall. Shelby caught a glimpse of her mother jumping about her blankets and pillows. The IV seemed poised to slip out and snap around like an live wire. Another nurse, taller than the others, picked Shelby up and quickly exited the room. Shelby was not aware that her mother had been fighting cancer for three years. This might be her last healthy glimpse, and Shelby thought of grub worms. Her sleepiness was still about her, and she leaned upon the nurse’s shoulder a moment. She thought of caterpillars. She asked where her father was. The nurse was certain he’d be back any moment from the cafeteria. Shelby was not so certain, but she sat comfortably in the waiting room chair the nurse set her in. The tall woman retreated back down the hall with her sharp knees cutting blue scrubs in scissor walk. Why not stay put, Shelby decided, hiding her desire to find a water fountain. There was a television here. There were toys. She stared up at the ceiling and imagined her mother jostling with violence once more, her flesh vibrating and hair recoiling. The image was something of movies, of fiction and make-believe. Shelby felt the tug of sleepiness roar in her bones. The motion of stillness pulled behind her eyelids. Shelby fell asleep in the chair.


She found herself in a giant closet filled with toys. There were dolls and
stuffed animals as far as she could see. A purple elephant said, "Hello
Shelby." Shelby got scared but wanted to grab the elephant. "My name is Roy
and I'm baking a pie." Shelby turned and ran. The closet door slammed behind
her. She ran and ran. She was in a grocery store with her mother. Her mother
seemed strong. Shelby kept trying to kiss her mother's cheek, but it was too
far away. Her mother was tall and Shelby was too short. Her father called
her name. Shelby ran past cereal boxes and oranges. She couldn't
find her father anywhere. She ran in circles until she found her father and
mother standing side by side in her backyard next to their pool. It was sunny
outside. Shelby smiled.


Shelby was woken by her father several minutes later. Despite the briefness of her rest, she felt refreshed. She was not crying, but he had a soft tone to his voice that belied catastrophe. This was all beyond her, well and good, and she was hardly aware of that fact. Her father handed her a hot sandwich and a chocolate milk. He patted her upon the head and waded down the hall towards her mother’s room. Shelby wanted to go too, but he told her to stay. She accepted this task of waiting, but furrowed her brow and kicked her feet according to her five year old frustration. The sandwich was hot, the milk cold. The television showed bunnies. Shelby grew excited and forgot her mother’s convulsions. She tossed her straw from her milk box and giggled. The nurses did not see her. She giggled again.

Soon enough, her father waded back down the hall, hugging his frame. He smiled and nodded towards Shelby, but did not join her. He walked over to the window and gazed out. This was the eight floor, Shelby had overheard, and wondered what her father saw from such heights. Whenever she peered out, she saw the ant-people marching around, and the tiny toy cars, and the small city buses. Her father rested a hand upon his face, over his eyes, and kept the other wrapped around his body. Shelby thought it silly to have such a view and bar it with your own hand. She turned away from her father and glanced up at the ceiling once more. The image of her sleeping mother came back to her; the image of her mother convulsing came back. Shelby wanted to go home and take a dip in the pool. It was getting dark out. Tomorrow she had planned to make a heart-shaped card expressing her love to her mother. But today, she just wanted to go swimming.

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