April 24, 2017 by dleecox
Hospitals smell like urine and industrial detergent. Acrid and cool.
“Jesus, Terry, you look like shit.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not the one in a hospital bed missing body parts. What the hell did you do, Jess?”
“It seems in my drug-induced stupor I decided I could stop a wood-chipper with my bare hands.”
“Allllll the way up to my shoulder. It drew me in so fast and just popped my arm off at the shoulder…”
“Heh… shoulda been my feet, ya know?”
“Why your feet?”
“Gangrene, between my toes. Gonna lose them anyway… heh…”
“Listen Terry, I need you to do me a favor.”
“I need you to kill me.”
“Get the fu…”
“No no, seriously”
“Yeah, no I’m not even listening to this shit.”
“Terry, hear me out! I know what you did for Mark.”
“Mark was my little brother. He had esophageal cancer. He was going to die a terrible and painful death. He didnt want Jill and the kids to suffer with him. And every time I see Macy and Mark junior it tears me apart. Its like a black hole in my gut, sucking everything I am into it. At least I know I’ll be the only glad soul in Hell.”
“Terry – I’m an addict. I will always be an addict.”
“Get help, Jess.”
“Theres no help for me, Terry. Do you understand? There’s NO HELP.
Terry, I’ve been so strung out I’ve considered telling my dealer where I live so he could take Jeanie.”
“Jess, she’s eight. What in the hell?”
“Yes, hell. You talk about being glad in Hell? I live there now, and I’m dragging Christine and Jeanie with me. I’m simply not going to stop. I need you to stop me.”
“No. I’m outa here.”
Terry snatched his coat off the chair.
“Jess, I’m not some sort of Angel of Death. You’ll get the job done on your own.”
“And you know I’ll take your sister with me, right?”
Terry stopped short. Glanced quickly at the nurses station, then closed the heavy fire door.
“Christine is your sister. You’d have her go through this shit? Fine.”
“I should kill you simply for threatening her.”
Terry stepped to the side of the bed. His wedding band tapped the rail with a thin “dink!”
“Ok, Jess, I’ll do it. It’ll look like an accident, too. Christine will collect on your insurance, and then some.”
Tears welled up in Jesse’s bloodshot eyes. Made them look like shiny black marbles.
“You see that green valve above your right arm? That’s oxygen. You pull that valve off, break it off, whatever you need to do, when I leave this room. Understand?”
Jesse sniffed, wiped his eyes.
Terry bent down at the end of the bed, reached under. Jesse felt the bed yank a few times, heard scraping, then smelled something akin to burning metal.
Terry stood up.
“When you see smoke, break that valve.”
“Its gonna hurt, Terry.”
“Well, at least when you get to Hell you’ll already be crispy.”
“Thank you, Terry.”
Jesse reached over his chest and offered his hand.
Terry looked at it, looked at Jesse, then turned and walked out.
After the loud boom jolted the already shaky elevator it came to an immediate stop. Emergency lights faded on. He was able to spread the doors and float down the last four feet to the next floor.
Alarms going off, people rushing, pushing. Sirens in the distance.
The hospital walls were cinder-block. The explosion would be contained. Nurses and adjacent patients would be shaken, but alive.
Terry glided past the reception desk and flew out the glass entry.
Across the street exiled smokers looked up and watched the conflagration on the fifth floor. By the time he reached them the red glow on their faces had dimmed and nothing but plumes of black smoke billowed from the shattered window.
His phone vibrated. It was Christine. “Ignore.”
He sat quietly in his car. In his rear view mirror he could see the flashing red lights of emergency vehicles. His phone had stopped its incessant buzzing. He looked at its black screen. Wiped it back and forth on his pants, polishing it. He ran his thumb over the cool smooth glass. Without thinking he turned it on and checked his messages.
That was curious. He hadnt heard from Mike in months.
Again, without thinking, and numb from the experience, he returned Mike’s call.
“Mike! Whats going on?”
“Hey, Terry. Where are you?”
“I’m at the hospital. I was visiting my brother in law, Jesse. You wouldnt believe it, but a fire broke out just as I was leaving.”
“Holy cow! Are you ok?”
“Yeah man, I’m fine. So whats up? Why’d you call?”
“Well, Terry… I’m, uh, I’m on top of the Chandler building…”
“Why the hell are you on top of the Chandler building?”
“Terry… I, uh… well, something told me you were the guy to call… you see, I need a push…”