The River

By Michael Melgaard

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He said he didn’t want anyone to think he was a coward, to think he was weak. He didn’t want anyone to think that he’d backed down from the pain or that he couldn’t face it. It was just the doctors told him that whether he took the treatment or not, he didn’t have much longer. He wanted to make sure everyone understood. It was just time.

They stopped treatment and moved him home so he could be somewhere familiar. They loaned him a hospital bed that was set up in the living room by the patio door, overlooking the river. There were machines; a nurse visited twice a day to check them. His wife read him the paper every morning and watched TV with him in the afternoon. Visitors came in the evening. It was family, mostly, and old friends who knew they were saying goodbye.

The drugs took care of more of the pain than he’d thought, but there was nothing he could do about the discomfort; it was hard for him to move and it was hard to stay still. Weakness ruled out movement soon anyways, and then the drugs dulled his mind so that none of it seemed to be happening anyways.

He tried to concentrate on the sound of the river outside during his lucid moments. He thought about how the sound was always carrying on and how it was always the same without ever repeating. He thought about how, when he couldn’t hear it any more, he would be dead.

Michael Melgaard