The gift that didn't work.
|Walt sat next to his daughter's hospital bed and stared at her face. He had been here for five minutes. She had been sleeping for five days. She was not waking up.
“Wake up!” he wanted to scream.
“It's hard to wake up sometimes,” he whispered into her ear. These were words he said to her when she was a baby waking after a nap.
It's hard to wake up sometimes, isn't it?
She was twenty years old now. Almost dead. Almost beautiful.
Blond hair and pale.
Pills, he was told. Sleeping pills.
Doctor Morris said time will tell. Yes, Walt thought. If nothing else, time will do that.
“I really think you should wake up and talk to me,” he said into her pink ear.
“This old world isn't all bad,” he said, “And it's Christmas!”
“I brought you a gift,” he said.
Outside the nurses were looking in at them. Walt could feel them looking. The nurse with sad eyes came in and smiled feebly and left without a word. They weren't sure about him. He was drunk and he was dirty but his ex-wife said he could stay for just a moment, so they let him.
But they watched him.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, they were thinking. They were thinking exactly that!
And maybe they were right.
“It's a gift like Aunt Dorothy used to give you,” Walt said. “Do you remember?”
Do you remember how you laughed? How you would tease me and giggle.
“Guess what it is?” he said making the tin rattle.
“Huh? Remember? Do you remember?”
“We used to laugh at it.”
And they did too. They laughed at many things before he went away. Before all that. Fruitcake was just one of the things he could remember laughing with her about. A private joke.
She would roll her eyes, say, “That is so gross!”
He let her think about that from where ever the far away place was she was in right now.
“Do you remember?” he kept asking softly. “Do you?”
When she suddenly at that moment woke up, he almost wasn't surprised.
She opened her blue eyes and looked at him from far away. Walt grabbed the nurse-call button and pressed the button again and again and again.
He shook her by the shoulder a little and then a little harder. He shook her shoulder and said, “Hi, baby, hi.”
“Hi,” he said over and over.
She kept closing her eyes.
He held out the tin of fruitcake. Letting her see it. Letting her smell it. “Hi, hi, hi, hi, hi!”
“Gross,” she said. “Gross!” she said again
The doctor entered. Doctor Morris, unsurprised, unimpressed. Doctor Morris made it clear that Walt was in his way. Walt jumped to his feet and stood in the hallway and looked in through the door and watched his daughter looking from the doctor to him again and again as the good doctor took the fruitcake off his patient's chest and unimpressed, handed it to the sad-eyed nurse.
Walt watched the nurse looking around the intensive care unit for a place to put the fruitcake and Walt reached out to take it from her.
“Get out!” his daughter was saying. He realized she was speaking to him as the clip-clop of his ex-wife's high-heels trotted in through the door.
They all realized his daughter was screaming at him. Machines began to beep rhythmically faster.
“You are so gross,” she was screaming. The doctor was holding her down. Two nurses helped.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
He left before they told him too. He went quickly out through heavy double doors into another wider hall, lost, he began walking faster as visiting plain-clothed people side-stepped him looking into his eyes, looking away again.
They gave him more room than he needed.
He kept walking, not looking back; the tin of fruitcake forgotten under his arm as he searched for the elevator, or the stairs; either one would do. Either one welcome now. Either one would suit him fine as he hurried down the unending hall.