the short story project


G.G. Hamilton


The winter sun doesn’t appear to add warmth, but it adds life to a cold day. Children play with snow in the schoolyard across the street. An old man watches from the window of his hospital bedroom. He always makes sure to look out the window at 10:45 a.m., the time of the children’s recess. He enjoys watching them play, their happiness, their youth. The scene is more enjoyable in the winter, the backdrop of white snow accentuates the running, multicoloured jackets. The smiles of red-faced children emerge from beneath their hoods. If they can embrace the cold each day and smile in its face, why can’t he?
            The clock strikes 11:00 and the bell in the schoolyard rings. The children stop their play and line up to go inside. The old man lies back in his bed. He stares at the ceiling as he waits for a nurse to come in.
            A young, female nurse enters the room, a new nurse. She carries a clipboard and a nervous weight on her chest.
“Is something the matter?” Asks the old man.
“Oh, no,” the nurse replies. She looks at her clipboard, “Everything’s fine.”
She walks over to a machine beside the old man’s bed. She looks at her clipboard, she looks at the machine. She writes on her clipboard, she pushes buttons on the machine. The old man has no idea what any of the information on the machine means. He has studied the machine for months, watching nurses and doctors record information and make changes. All he can determine is that the pulsing red line on the black screen is the beat of his heart, it looks the same as in the movies.
“How are you feeling today, Mr. Sampson?” asks the nurse.
“I’m fine,” says the old man, “Certainly not as fine as yourself, but fine.”
“Sorry?” Says the nurse.
“Your health, your youth! I’m sure you’re feeling better than myself.”
“Oh,” the nurse laughs.
“What’s your name?”
“You’re new.”
“I am. Just started this week.”
“Are you in a relationship, Charlotte?”
“I am,” she laughs, “What motivates you to ask?”
“Oh, I just enjoy hearing about the relationships of the youth. I didn’t have your freedom when I was younger. We didn’t date like you do.”
The weight on the nurse’s chest disappears, “Are you in a relationship, Mr. Sampson?”
“I am. Been in a relationship for fifty-six years, married for fifty-one, and been trying to get out for sixty.”
He laughs, “I’m kidding. People used to laugh when I told that one,” he pauses, “I haven’t resented a single day with her.”
The nurse smiles, “That’s beautiful.”
“How long have you been in your relationship, Charlotte?”
“Depends on which one.”
“You’re in more than one?”
“Just two.”
The old man laughs. The nurse gives him a look.
“’Just two,’” says the old man, “I’ve never felt the need to say, ‘Just one,’” he continues to laugh.
“Do you have a problem with me being in more than one relationship, Mr. Sampson?”
“My goodness, no,” he stops laughing, “Quite the contrary, I’ve always been intrigued by what’s the word for it… polyamory.”
“Really? What do you find so intriguing?”
“That people can put up with it.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” the nurse says, “I put up with relationships the same way you do.”
“But don’t you get jealous?”
“Jealous? No.”
“Then you must not love the people you’re with.”
“I do love them. The same way you love your wife.”
“I doubt that, Charlotte.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because people take ownership of the things they love, even if it’s wrong to do. With your relationships, you can’t have that ownership. If you truly love them, you must get jealous.”
“I do love them, and I don’t get jealous.”
“Then you’re a greater person than I.”
The old man looks out the window. It has started to snow. The snowflakes fall lightly.
“I’m jealous of you, Charlotte.”
“Why’s that?”
“Your youth,” he stares at the nurse, “I don’t want to die, yet,” he stares back out the window, “I love living too much.”
A heavier weight falls upon the nurse’s chest.
“Does your wife come to visit you often, Mr. Sampson?”
“She’s here all the time.”
Across the street, some of the parents have already arrived at the school, waiting to take their children home for lunch. It’s not yet noon, but the parents arrive early. They love their children and can’t bear spending time away. Some of the parents face the cold and wait outside the school doors so they can see their children immediately. Other parents wait in their cars with the heater on the highest setting and the windshield wipers on the fastest speed. They look out their windows and remove the falling snowflakes that try to block their view.

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