by Will Moran
Artwork, “Astro Innocence” by Lauren Ostrea
Once upon a time, two terminally ill men were admitted to a hospital at roughly the same time. They were both doomed to death. Whether it be kidneys failing, or heart disease, or cancer, their fate was sealed.
They shared a hospital room, as the hospital was too crowded for every patient to have their own room. One man’s bed lay against the wall by the door. The button to summon the nurses was located next to his bed, and it was his responsibility to press said button should either man need anything. The other man’s bed lay against the window, which allowed for him to look down on the world below. Neither man had any remaining relatives, friends, or loved ones, and they nervously awaited the inevitable.
One day, the man by the window happened to glance out the window.
“Well would you look at that,” he said. “That boy down there has a puppy. He’s playing fetch!”
“What?” asked the man by the door.
“The park across the street. I can see it from here. There’s a small boy in a blue shirt playing fetch with a Labrador about as big as he is. He’s chasing it now. It’s refusing to give the ball back.”
“That sure is something,” chuckled the man by the door. “I had a Labrador when I was a young boy. His name was Bruce. We used to go to the park and throw the Frisbee. I would love to see a dog again.”
“Really,” responded the man by the window. “I was always more of a cat person. But I sure can appreciate the joy of that little boy.”
He leaned against the window and kept staring out. “There’s a hotdog stand down there, too. Red and yellow striped umbrella. About six people in line. I could really go for one of those hotdogs right now.”
“Me too,” replied the man by the door, sinking further into his bed. “You think the nurses would get us some?”
“Only one way to find out.” The man by the door pressed the call button. Two nurses with stethoscopes burst into the room.
“What’s wrong? Is something the matter?” they asked, checking the vital signs on the machines.
“We’re both fine,” said the man by the window. “But is there anyway you all could sneak us up a couple of hotdogs?”
The nurses frowned, and looked at the man by the door. “You pressed the button to ask for hot dogs?”
The man by the door shrugged. The nurses rolled their eyes, reminded the men that dinner was at 6, and left. The men laughed about it for about an hour, and then went back to their naps and television and crossword puzzles. The cafeteria served hotdogs that night.
The next day, the man by the window looked out the window again.
“Well would you look at that!” he exclaimed. “Some kids from the local college got together a little volleyball game there!”
“Fascinating!” said the man by the door. “What’s happening?”
“A girl is serving. Looks like she’s probably played volleyball before. A man is in the back waiting to return. Oh, she aced him!”
“Wow, she must be really good. I wish I had seen it.”
“It was amazing. Her team is all hugging her now. I guess they won. You ever play volleyball back in the day?”
“Me? Nah,” replied the man by the door. “I went All-American in soccer, but that was decades ago. I haven’t played since I was in my thirties at least.”
“Huh. Never much got into sports,” said the man by the window, lifting up the television guide for the next day. “But it looks like the World Cup final is tomorrow. Want to watch it with me?”
“Absolutely! I remember this one time in college we were down 5-1 going into the 72nd minute…” the man sat up straighter in his bed than he had in a long time. The man by the window laid back and listened to the man by the door retell soccer stories from lifetimes ago for the remainder of the morning. The nurses were surprised that their two most needy patients didn’t ring the call button a single time that day.
The next day, the man by the window was looking out the window, World Cup final playing in the background, when his heart failed. The man by the door was mindlessly doing a Sudoku when it happened. He noticed almost immediately that his friend had begun violently seizing. He quickly sat down the puzzle and went to press the call button, but stopped at the last second.
The man by the door glanced over his friend and out at window at the bright blue sky. The sun was bright today; it must have been gorgeous out at the park. A few clouds casually danced across the blue sky, begging someone to come chase them. The man by the door slowly retracted his hand and quietly pulled the covers over himself as he turned to face the cold, white wall.
It began raining as they rolled the body out. The man by the window had died. The man by the door asked for his bed to be moved to the window, since he would now have the room to himself. The nurses warned him that he wouldn’t be able to push the button on the wall should something happen, but he assured them that it didn’t matter, he only wanted to look down at the park before he died. Confused, the nurses agreed to move his bed. The man excitedly looked out the glass as soon as his bed touched the window frame.
His smile quickly faded as he cast his eyes on the gray concrete of the hospital parking lot below.