Part of NaNo, experimenting with flashbacks. hope it works.
|Duane sat in the chair in silent agony that his life would soon end. If he could take the breathing tubes from her nose and the IVs from her arms, and take her pain onto himself, he would. Since the first time he met his wife, he knew there would be no one else for him. At first, most people snickered at them because Chelsea was so tall and he was barely 5’6. Chelsea was a good 6 foot tall and usually towered over most people, plus she liked to wear high heels which put an extra 3 to 4 inches to her already statuesque height. Duane let his mind drift back to the time he first met Chelsea.
Duane was a confirmed bachelor. He took to the rodeo trick riding circuit because he was short enough and agile enough to do the tricks with ease. It is where he got the most respect. As in all hard sports, time and falls took their toll on his limbs. He retired the circuit and managed to land a job as a ranch hand. He did his job and expected everyone else to do theirs to the same standards he set for himself. It earned him the nickname Crusty amongst his co-workers. He did not pay much attention as they were just ….. Well, let’s just say he did not care for their company and they did not care for his.
“CRUSTY!” Duane cringed whenever he heard that name. His boss was the only one who could get away with it. Everyone else ended up with a busted lip. They may have been a bit taller than he, but they could not move as quickly as he nor did they have the agility he had. They learned. They may call him that name privately, but they never call him that to his face. Anymore.
“Yes, boss.” No respect, no pleasantries, just see what the man wanted and get it done.
“I hired a new cook. Show her the ropes.”
“Her name is Chelsea Grant.”
George Stratton watched Crusty go to the mess hall and just shook his head. He was a good worker, but irritatingly polite where one always got the impression he was privately saying ‘screw you’ to everyone and everything.
Crusty walked into the kitchen to train in the new boots.
He stood in the doorway hat in hand and said, “Howdy Ms. Chelsea, my name is Duane, I am here to train you in.”
He was greeted with a wide grin and sparkling eyes, and lord, she was tall. All he wanted in that moment was to just stand there and look at Ms. Chelsea. He cleared his throat, and offered to show her anything she needed to do her job. He spent the day with her and was rather reluctant to leave.
“You live round here?”
“You know the cook’s quarters come with the job?”
“I have a little boy. I don’t know how it would work.”
“Guess yer right. Yer husband probably won’t want to be out here.”
“I’m not married. It’s just Jimmy and me. “
“How old’s yer boy?”
Duane cleared his throat and offered, “’bout the same age as the boss’s boy. His boy’s name is Troy. I’ll show it to you and you can decide later.”
Later after looking it over she had to admit a bit wistfully, “I sure would like to live here, but with my little one, I don’t know how that would work.”
“What do you do when you have to cook and clean at home?” Duane asked.
She laughed out loud. Duane liked the way she laughed, and laughed along with Chelsea.
She contained herself enough to say, “Touché. Will I be allowed to let him play in a corner while I work?”
“Guarantee it.” Duane said warmly.
Chelsea showed all her pretty teeth and asked if there was anyone who could help her move out here. She knew Duane would offer. And he was shyly happy that she suggested that he help her move.
Duane could not contain his smile as he waved to her as she drove off and knew in that moment that his bachelor days were done.
Duane was pulled from his reverie when he heard the knock on the hospital door. When Jimmy, now 28, entered, Duane motioned for him to come in quickly. The hushed hospital whispers and the doctor/nurse conversations, mixed in with the sterile antiseptic smell drifted in whenever the door opened and closed and it made his Chelsea wince when the odors reached her already heightened senses.
“Hello, son. Glad you got here in time.”
“Hey, dad. What did they say?”
Duane pumped his flattened palm up and down to indicate to Jimmy that he was talking too loud. He softened his voice as he said, “Cancer went to her brain and lungs. Cain’t do nuthin now cept make her comfortable.”
Jimmy nodded his head and took a seat next to his dad to stand vigil. Jimmy met Duane when he was 3 years old. Most of the men mom met back then did not stay around very long. But Duane was different. He married mom right off. And he was a good dad for Jimmy. Even when Jimmy surpassed his mom’s height, Jimmy always looked up to Duane. Some dads might have treated their blood kids better than the steps, but Duane never did. Duane loved Jimmy the same as he did the son him and Chelsea had together. Duke was a surprise. Chelsea had given up hope of having a baby with Duane, but ten years later, Duke was born. They let Jimmy name his brother, and did not say anything when he named after The Duke.
“Duke been here yet?”
“He’ll come after school.”
“How can he go to school?”
Duane shrugged his shoulders.
Chelsea stirred and mumbled something. Jimmy looked at his dad and asked what she wanted. Duane shrugged and waited for the mumbling to be repeated.
“Dad, what’s she saying about a paper?”
“Preacher came round and gave her last rites. Jest give her that there paper.”
“Dad, there’s nothing on it.”
“She don’t know that. Jest give it to her.”
Jimmy did as his dad instructed. With tears forming in his eyes, Jimmy asked. “How close is it?”
“Be lucky if she makes it through the night.”
Jimmy raised his fist and brought it down lightly on the metal bars that were surrounding his mom on the hospital bed. Resisting the urge to put his fist in the wall, Jimmy asked, “Should I go get Duke?”
“Not lessen you want to. He’ll come when he’s ready. We each have our way of copin. He’s got his.”
“Dad, I need something to do.”
“Got some calls I been putting off. Getting kinda hungry.”
Jimmy swallowed hard, looked at his dad and mumbled, “I’ll go get some take out. You gonna to be okay til I get back?”
“I will keep breathin; jes don’t ask me to be okay.”
Jimmy nodded his head and left the room.
Duane took a deep breath and swallowed the lump in his throat. He put his right hand to his face to swipe the tears off his face. Duane did not like to cry, even now he thought he had to be strong. He looked at his Chelsea and took her hand and signed “I love you” into her hand, the way he had done when she was in chemo and too weak to move. He kept signing the words into her hand until she moved her fingers to sign, “me, too”.
Jimmy skipped getting take out. Instead he went to the high school to pick up Duke and bring him back to the hospital. Duane’s chest tightened to see the two together, they looked so much like their mother. Jimmy was 13 year older than Duke, but they were almost the same height. Couple more years and Duke would pass Jimmy up. Duane listened to the boys talk about their stuff and let his eyes close for a few minutes.
It was 3:02 a.m., Duane awoke with a start. He looked at Chelsea’s ashen face and heard the rails getting farther and farther apart. He put his hands on his sons’ shoulders and said, “Boys, it’s time.”
Duke and Jimmy rose, scratched the sleep out of their eyes and moved to their mother’s bedside.
The boys were clutching the metal rails and just looked at their mother gasping for each labored breath. Duane dropped to his knees and pulled Chelsea’s hand to his lips and left it there. Her head arced back slightly and her mouth opened to try for one last breath, but there would be no more. Duke tried to close her mouth, but it could not be shut.
“She’s gone, Duke.”
[1st Place 'Short Story' - Newbies ONLY Short Story & Poem Contest ~ December 2014.]