April 24, 2012 at 5:28 am (Short Stories)

The hospital room was quiet, or as quiet as a hospital room can get. It was mid-afternoon and warm, and an elderly man dozed in his bed, a heart monitor beeping rhythmically beside him. A small boy sat in a hard chair in the corner, moving his feet restlessly, making a beeping sound with his mouth whenever the machine did and occasionally glancing at the old man. The old man stirred and looked over where the boy sat.

Hey grandpa!” He stopped kicking his feet. “Mom went to get something to eat and said to stay with you!”
“Hello Tyson.” The old man smiled weakly at his grandson. “Have you been here long?”
“I’ve been here for a hundred and forty three beeps.” The monitor beeped again. “A hundred and forty four, we are learning counting in school. I counted to three hundred once!”
“That’s very nice. I’m proud of you.”
The boy stopped smiling. He slid out of his chair and went over to the side of his grandfather’s bed somberly.
“Grandpa, mom and dad said you were going to die.”
His grandfather looked startled. It wasn’t news to him, but he was surprised at the boys candor.
“Yes, I’m afraid they’re right. I’m not really doing very well. But it’s ok, don’t be worried for me. It’s just my time.”
“No, I wasn’t worried.” He reached down beside the bed and picked up a small backpack. “I just decided I’m going to go with you.”
This was not what the old man had expected.
“Why do you want to come with me?”
“Well, mom and dad told me that I shouldn’t be sad about you dying. They said that death was ‘The next great adventure’. I decided that you shouldn’t have to go adventuring alone, so I’m coming too.”
He folded his arms over each other and gave his grandfather a very firm look.
“Tyson, come up here.”
The old man patted a spot beside him on the bed and the boy dutifully climbed up and sat beside him.
“What do you think will happen on this adventure?”
“I hope there are dragons!” The boy’s eyes lit up and he smiled cheerfully as he talked. “And princesses, you have to have a princess. I bet there will be bad men that I’ll have to fight, you can help, grandpa, if you want. Will I get a sword? I should have a sword. Or a gun. And a fast car. So that way I could escape.”
“Well now I’m very excited too. Let’s hurry up and die together.”
The old man closed his eyes again and lay very still. Tyson closed his eyes too and laid down beside his grandfather. He tried to lay as still as he was able. But he was a very excited young boy and excited young boys have a lot of trouble lying still. He opened his eyes and looked over to where his grandfather lay beside him.
“Grandpa!” He whispered.
“Does it take a very long time to die?”
“Some longer than others. It’s taken me a very long time to die. It took your grandmother a little less time. It will probably take you a very long time indeed, so you must lay back down and be patient.”
The boy didn’t look happy but he tried his very hardest. It didn’t last long.
“Is it almost time?”
“That depends on who you are talking about. But no. Not for you.”
Tyson sat back up and crossed his arms. He looked disappointed.
“You are going to leave me behind aren’t you?”
“Yes, I believe I might.”
“But I want to meet a princess and be a hero, Grandpa!”
The old man faked a look of surprise. He brought one shaking hand to cover his mouth and his eyes grew wide.
“Is that all you wanted? Well you can do that without dying. As a matter of fact you need to. Do you want to know a secret?”
The boy nodded vigorously and leaned closer.
“Your grandmother was a princess when I first met her. She was always a princess. I slew dragons for her. I drove fast cars. I built her a castle.”
“Grandpa, I’ve been to your house, it’s not a castle.”
“No, not to you, and Grandma wasn’t a princess to you either. But they were to me, and that’s what matters. So you need to go out and find your own adventure first.”
“I don’t think I want to die just yet.”
“That’s ok. I don’t think you should.”
“But Grandpa… I don’t want you to have to go alone. “
His grandfather smiled at him and reached a wrinkled hand over to pat the boy on his arm.
“That’s why you find yourself a princess. I’m pretty sure your grandmother didn’t want to go alone either. I bet you anything that once I take my first step on this new adventure, she’ll be standing there waiting for me.” There was a faraway look in his eyes while he said this, a look that spoke of sadness and fear, but mostly hope. “I’ve missed her a lot Tyson and so I’ll be very excited to see her. Don’t you worry about me.”
“Ok Grandpa. Thanks! I’m going to count some more.”
The old man smiled at him and nodded, then closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, a slight smile playing across his lips. The boy slid down off the bed and sat back in his chair and began to count the beeps of the heart monitor. But small boys are easily distracted, especially excited small boys and before too long he began day dreaming about princesses. He lost all track of the beeps and didn’t even notice when they stopped. So it was, as one small hero sat in his chair dreaming of all his future adventures with his princess, the other hero finished his adventure and stepped into his new one, taking the hand of his princess on the other side.

Go ahead, make my day.

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