Been a rough couple of weeks for me. Nothing that I really want to get into, but lets just say that I've gone through better stretches in the past.
The bit of good news is that I am very near completion of the first draft of the novel that I've been writing for the better part of the year. My goal of finishing it before years end is looking like a possibility. Instead of scanning in, and posting an illustration this week, I've decided to put up a sample chapter from the book.
Remember, this is still a first draft, so don't judge me too harshly. Because if you do, I'll find you...
And send you a nasty email or something, I dunno.
That really was a hollow threat.
The long white hallway on the fourth floor of the Fairchild Medical Center was mostly empty, and rather quiet. Only occasionally did a nurse, or a doctor walk by with their head buried in a set of papers attached to a clipboard, their shoes clicking against the tile floor with every step. It was night, and with visiting hours coming to an end most everyone, patients and family had returned home. On an empty bench near the end of the hallway sat seven-year-old Tommy Jarvis. Too short to reach the floor, his legs dangled back and forth over the edge of the bench. With his hands resting on his lap he twiddled his fingers quietly, while trying his hardest to think about anything other than the hospital he currently found himself in. Behind the door to his right were his mother and father. For almost a year now his mother had been growing progressively sicker. At first she was making trips to the doctor for small things like high fevers, or sore throats, or pain in her joints. In the last few months the trips had become more frequent. Three weeks ago she was admitted to the hospital and it was there that she remained since. Every night like clockwork his father would leave both he and his brother with his auntie Carol and go to visit her. On the weekends – like today – he would bring both Tommy and his brother Nicky along. Nicky was too young to really, truly understand what was going on, but Tommy believed that the young boy understood the basics of the situation – his mother was sick, and she wasn’t gong to get better. She was dying. No doubt he didn’t completely understand everything about the concept of death, but he did know that a time would come very soon, when he would never be able to see his mother again.
The door to Tommy’s side opened and his father stepped out with little Nicky pulled tightly against his chest. He looked in the direction of his son, “Hey buddy…how are you feeling?”
Tommy didn’t know how to respond. The idea of summing up everything going on in his head seemed like a task more impossible than anything he had yet to encounter in his young life, and therefore he felt no desire to try.
Chris Jarvis gently laid the very sleepy Nicky down on the bench next to his older brother then softly brushed the hair out of his eyes. When Chris looked down he noticed his hand was shaking. He could feel a torrent of emotions building up inside him, but forced himself to ignore them. He needed to be strong. Even if wanted so very badly to cry, and scream, and denounce his faith in God, the universe, and whatever unseen force was putting his family through this. Even if he wanted to yell at the doctors for not doing more, or curse the nurses and their pitying looks, or simply run away and leave all the sadness and the stress behind, he couldn’t. He couldn’t do any of these things or a number of others. Not in front of his boys, not now. He had to be bigger than that, for them – even if it hurt more than he could stand. After taking a deep breath and stopping the growth of a single tear in the corner of his eye by wiping it away, he kneeled down in front of Tommy, and looked into the soft blues of his eldest son, “Hey big man, your mom…your mom wants to see you alone for a minute. Would you like to do that? Are you going to be okay, or do you want your ol’ dad to go with you?”
Tommy noticed the shaking of his father’s hands. He spotted a glimmer of wetness catching the pale glow of the fluorescent lights in the corner of his eye.
Despite trying so hard, Chris Jarvis wasn’t hiding his emotions well.
Tommy wanted so very badly to see his mother. To hug her and kiss her, and hear her tell him that she loved him, and that she would always be there for him, but he knew that isn’t what was going to happen. Maybe it was the look on his fathers face, or the eerie, bordering on downright frightening silence coming from his mother’s room, but something inside him told him that if he went through that door, it was going to be for the last time. After today he was never going to see her again.
“Well buddy, is that something you think you might want to do? I know your mom would really like to see you.”
Despite his brain telling him to say no, Tommy nodded his head yes. He slowly slid off of the bench and began moving towards the door to her room.
His father patted him softly on the top of the head, mussed his hair a bit then whispered through a shaky voice, “It’s okay buddy, everything will be alright.”
Tommy didn’t believe his words anymore than his father believed them himself.
Once he had put some distance between he and his father, he heard the old man’s voice crack silently as he struggled to keep from breaking down right there on the spot. It is this very tiny, yet extremely telling moment that would stick with Tommy for years afterward, because his father’s voice would never sound the same again. Not only did Chris Jarvis’ voice crack on that day, but his soul did as well – a crack so very deep that it would never be repaired – instead spreading slowly with every passing second, until the damn broke completely and drowned everything in it’s path.
The hospital room was dark. Only barely lit up by the light of a television set hanging high in the corner with the volume down. As Tommy approached his mother’s bed he noticed how small and frail her body looked. The light blue sheet hung over her skinny body as if it were resting on a skeleton. Her breathing was labored, her face gaunt, her eyes sleepy and dreamy. She looked far away, almost as if her mind was off somewhere, floating above, and just barely clinging onto the motionless form propped up on pillows in the real world. Her left eye moved slowly to the side, independent of her face, as she spotted Tommy standing next to the bed looking up at her. A weary smile formed on her worn face, but even the act of smiling seemed a painful experience for her. Her mouth opened almost as if she wished to speak, but only a puff of air, and a gentle hum that was just barely a sound escaped. Somewhat ashamed at her inability to form sentences, she squinted her eyes, focused her mind and tried again, “T…Tommy…Ho…how is Mommy’s…s…special little…guy?”
Her hand walked across the bed sheets like a pale white spider moving towards Tommy. When it reached the end of the bed he reached up and held onto it gently. He wanted to squeeze it as tightly as he could, but didn’t for fear that it might cause her pain in some way.
“Mommy…is…g…going to go away for a while…bu…I don’t want you…to…ever forget how…much I…I love you…okay baby?”
The tidal wave of emotions Tommy had been doing his best to keep inside started to make their way out of him in the form of the hot liquid now streaming from his eyes. His face grew hot, his lip started to quiver uncontrollably, his neck felt wobbly and unable to properly hold the weight of his head.
While trying to catch his breath and failing, Tommy looked up at the motionless form that only sort of resembled his mother. In between deep breaths he did his best to form a sentence, “Bu…but I don’t want you to go.”
Megan Jarvis started to cry almost instantly after seeing her son break down. She had cried so much over the past year that she was amazed she had any tears left, “No…no…don’t cry baby…you need to be strong for Mommy…you…you need to be st…strong.” She used every last ounce of strength buried within her to lean over the side of the bed while ignoring the incredible pain shooting throughout her body, and pull her son towards her.
Tommy moved closer to her and began to sob into the thin, flower patterned fabric of her hospital gown.
“This is just part of life To…Tommy. Ju…just another part…” Megan pulled his face away from her shoulder so she could look him directly in the eyes, “All of life is beautiful…all of it. Even…the parts we hate, and even…when it reaches its end.”
Tommy wasn’t completely sure what she meant, but he absorbed her every word like a plant absorbing the life giving energy of the sun, and promised himself that he would never forget even a single one.
“You’re a very special…boy…Tommy Jarvis. I…I…knew from the moment I saw…your tiny little…face. Promise me…promise mommy that you’ll enjoy life. Promise…me…that you’ll look for its beauty. Promise me, that…you’ll be happy. Promise me…that you’ll do…do…everything that…you think…you can’t…” Her voice began to trail off. Her eyes slowly looking away from him and back off into whatever it was that she could now see that no one else could. The hot air softly blowing from her mouth and nose became shorter, and somehow colder against Tommy’s skin. Her neck grew looser and her head heavier. Her hands slid off of his face and floated downwards, landing softly on the sheet covering her body.
Tommy climbed up onto her bed and wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in her shoulder once again. Deeply he breathed in the smell of her hair, and felt the softness of her skin on the side of his face.
In between fits of tears, he whispered into her ear, “I Promise.”