Preface: After putting in a full day at work, I came home, propped my feet, and turned on the TV. Cable is a wonderful thing to a man who recalls a childhood with no cable and not many choices of the few channels available in small town America. As I scan almost two hundred channels, I come across an old episode of The Andy Griffith Show, one of the episodes when The Darlings (The Dillards) come to visit and Charlene (played by Maggie Peterson) sings There is a Time. I want to replay the poetry and imagine making all other channels disappear and making the world watch and listen. There are lessons to be learned and hope can be discovered through song and this one inspired this piece of flash fiction. – Niles Reddick
There were signs—obsessive tendencies over irrelevant things like making sure shoes were straight in the closet, socks were folded in a particular way, and ensuring drawers were organized in the kitchen; emotional changes like getting mad at the postman for not closing the mailbox, scolding the pharmacy every thirty days because they gave him a generic instead of the brand name, and snapping at family members over incorrect recollection of past events; and physical signs such as the inability to do simple yard work without profuse sweating, memory and confusion issues like standing in the yard with the spray bottle of weed killer and not remembering where that single weed was he’d seen yesterday, and walking to the cupboard and not remembering why.
Those were signs that were ignored, but were all symptoms of clogged arteries trying to push blood through tunnels lined with plaque from bacon, biscuits, Little Debbie cakes, and other cholesterol laden food. The body itself was like a volcano; the pressure was building and could explode at any time with a stroke.
One afternoon, Harry was searching the landscaping for nut grass sprigs. The only way to kill them was to spray them with poison, which could kill the good flowers, too, like chemo. If he hoed or pulled them, the nut or root would stay in the ground and replicate quickly and spread. As he pushed back the azalea limbs to douse the nut grass, he felt a force inside and he toppled sideways, hitting his face on the metal landscape lighting and bled.
He didn’t recall the ambulance, the IVs, the catheter, the surgery on his carotid arteries, the conversations with the doctors or nurses about the blindness in one eye, the paralysis on his left side, the medication details, or the rehabilitation he would undergo, which may or may not help. He doesn’t know how he got home or that he’s been gone over a month and that nut grass has taken over the landscaping, the kitchen drawers are all askew from his adult children who are visiting, and the mail is soaked from the mailbox being left open during thunderstorms.
While he can’t walk to the chest of drawers or closet, he’d find his socks and shoes were still organized, though he doesn’t need them because he wears slippers. Mostly, Harry sits in a straight back chair by his bed and stares out the window. His mind replays scenes of earlier times when spring and summer meant flirting, dating, and marrying his young love turned wife, trips to the lake cabin with the children, and square-dances on Saturday to bluegrass tunes by The Dillards and others.
For now, winter has come and frozen are the scenes Harry sees from his bedroom window. The snow blankets the yard and white roof tops reflect sunlight in the neighborhood. Dorothy checks on him often and helps guide him down the hall, opens his fly, and holds his penis while he urinates, so he doesn’t spray the floor and wall, like her male grandchildren, and the home health nurse helps him with the shower three days a week because that’s all Medicare and their bridge policy will cover. Dorothy also buys Gerber products for the first time in fifty years. Harry likes the plums she spoons into his mouth; he makes a contorted clown face when she feeds him the pureed green beans. Dorothy knew there was a time for winter, but she hoped there might be another spring and summer. The odds, however, always favor time, not people.