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.