the death watch

The air smells late and tiresome. The way it sometimes does when you’re waiting on it to happen.

It’s uncomfortable cold, but I sit with ’em on the porch. ‘Cause ain’t no bunch ought to be left on their own like this.

Roy shuffles his feet and folds his hands and then lays them straight again. He talks about crops and the weather and about life when he was a boy.

Ebbie stares and is quiet. Every once in a while he turns and looks at me and closes his eyes as if to say ‘You go on. Go on in there and do what you come here to do’.

So I go.

I see the old man, humped up in his bed. Pillows propped and packed behind his head, trying to make him look like he’s more than he is. More alive than not.

He doesn’t move. His eyes are open but he can’t hear me. I know it and the girl who sits beside him knows it, but still I say to him “John, I come to pray with you John”.

I stand over him. Lay my good hand on his head and think again how I forgot the oil. I shouldn’t have forgot the oil. I stretch my other hand to the sky. Say what I know to say about Kingdom Come and Glory and about how one day, death too will end.

I finish up and go quiet. I look at the girl who doesn’t look at me.

“He’s already died,” she says.

I kick a beetle across the floor and say “I knowed it.”

I go back to the porch to tell the boys. Again.

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  • laura
    Jun 13, 2006 at 23:08

    what sadness and beauty this writing brings. I love this post. very touching.


  • Dagoth
    Jun 14, 2006 at 1:37

    Hi Buffy

    Quite moving!

  • Bre
    Jun 14, 2006 at 3:32

    There’s something about those moments after someone dies when you want to believe that maybe there’s still a bit of life left… a bit of something that hears the prayer or notices the absence of oil.

    Very well done, as per usual.

  • Janet
    Jun 14, 2006 at 6:33

    My but those characters were strong. I thought this was personal until I saw “Filed Under Fiction.” You write very well.

  • Katherine
    Jun 14, 2006 at 14:18

    Great writing. Made me think of a very poor, uneducated family in WV whose patriarch just died.

  • Popeye
    Jun 14, 2006 at 18:25

    (I let out my breath with her when she forgot the oil – I tried to believe what she did, too – Thanks for letting us peep through the keyhole)

  • nicki
    Jun 14, 2006 at 18:32

    sad and lovely, you always leave me wanting to know more! Which I know is very good for you!

  • Shesawriter
    Jun 14, 2006 at 20:20

    Sad piece, Buffy. But touching. Thanks for posting this.


  • InterstellarLass
    Jun 14, 2006 at 20:42

    Very well written and very real.

  • David
    Jun 15, 2006 at 4:50

    So…it wasnt true then? Why? I mean, dont get me wrong you have every right to write whatever you want, but why write something so sad…

  • Buffy
    Jun 15, 2006 at 5:43

    Popeye…struggling here…maybe it’s the early morning hour. Eh? What am I missing?

    David…I sat down to write about my mother. And how at the age of 21 she watched over Mawsie (her great gran) as she died after a long illness. But it’s kinda hard…It’s easier to write fiction…throw in a little bit of real life essence. I’ll get that story about Mom and Mawsie out yet though…

  • Popeye
    Jun 15, 2006 at 16:41

    Good morning, Buffy. I’m not sure which part didn’t make sense so if I over explain, forgive me. As far as the breath, when I read it, I imagined her letting out a sigh/breath when she wished we would haver remembered the oil. As far as the belief part, it was something about her stretching her hand to the sky to make that real a connection to heaven. The peephole part? I felt a little bit like an interloper on a moment that was very private and quiet; like I was looking through a peephole. Sometimes, I’m a little vague. . .

  • Buffy
    Jun 15, 2006 at 17:03

    Popeye….all makes perfect sense now. 🙂 When I wrote this…the narrator was a man….so the ‘she’ part threw me. I think I like it better your way. 🙂

  • Diane
    Jun 15, 2006 at 23:19

    I too thhought it was a woman (the narrator).

  • amanda
    Jun 16, 2006 at 14:06

    i might have already posted this but…i love the image of the beetle, that detail says so much to me. great work.

  • anne
    Jun 16, 2006 at 14:20

    Great as always… 🙂

  • Belinda
    Apr 18, 2007 at 12:28

    Great writing, Buffy. I almost feel like I was there in that moment because that is what life around here rural Mississippi)is like. I have been in moments like that, so it makes it all the more real for me. Wonderfully done.