By Mike Stone
“I saw a twitch …”
“… His eyelids are fluttering …”
“How are we doing today Mr. Stavros? You gave us quite a scare, didn’t he Mrs. Stavros?”
The young woman addressing him was dressed in a pale blue pajama holding a clipboard with pen poised to note something indicative. Off to the left side of his visual space was an older woman who seemed to stare intently at him. The younger woman was more attractive than the older woman, so his eyes shifted back in her direction. On the right side of his visual field were two young men. One was sitting and the other was standing.
Suddenly the door burst open and another young man entered the room. “I got here as quickly as I could,” he said looking at me for some unfathomable reason. He came close to me and put his lips to my cheek, funny I couldn’t feel it, and squeezed my arms with his hands.
The older woman was leaning forward in her chair and holding my hand. I saw this but I couldn’t feel it either.
“It’s good you came but prepare yourself,” one of the young men said, vacating his chair for the new man who had just entered. “He doesn’t seem to recognize any of us and he can’t feel anything on his left side.”
“Hush,” the older woman said to one of the men. “He’ll hear you and …” She burst into tears. “I can’t anymore,” she sobbed and got up from her chair to leave the room.
I wasn’t sure whom they were talking about and I had no idea who they were.
“Good morning Mr. Stavros,” an attractive young woman in pale blue pajamas said in his direction. “How are we this morning? Time for us to turn you over … Just you let us do the work.”
There was another sturdier woman in dark blue pajamas on the other side of his vision he hadn’t noticed before. They lifted him onto his side. The older woman from the day before was sitting on the chair next to his bed. He heard voices behind him.
He wondered who these people were. Why did that attractive young woman call him Mr. Stavros? Why was the older woman calling him Joe? Why were the young men calling him Dad?
“Good morning Mr. Stavros,” the young woman from the other day said to him. “How are we doing today? You have a special visitor today.”
A young girl entered the room cautiously. She couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen. She looked at me, then at one of the young men, and finally back at me. She came over to the bed, said “Hi Grampa”, kissed my cheek which I still couldn’t feel, and lay her head on my chest. Her long hair spread over my chest and smelled like … like … what was it? Who was she?
The young girl pulled up a chair near the bed and took out a thin book from a backpack. She opened the book and started reading out loud, “An Idea for a Short Story, August 22, 2014, Sounds. Voices. Tingling.”
“What are you doing Cory?” one of the young men asked her.
She looked up from the book and answered, “I got the idea from Grampa. He wrote this story just before he had this …”
“Stroke?” the young man suggested. “Let me see the story.” He had been too busy to read his father’s rather prolific writings lately but he had been meaning to get around to it sometime or other. He read the story over quickly. Then he read it again, this time more slowly. “You had the right idea,” he said after rereading it, “but in the story he suggested we read him his poetry books. He said that was where he stored his images and memories. It’s worth a try.”
“Good morning Mr. Stavros,” a young woman said to him from behind her clipboard. “How are we doing today? Your special visitor has come back to see you.”
The young girl from the other day came into the room, walked over to the bed, kissed his cheek, and sat down in the chair. She pulled another thin book, this one black, from her backpack and opened it up to the first page. She began to read to him.
Song of Symbols
University years (Michigan State University): 1965-1969
It is a song of symbols,
Clocks and stars;
A string tied to a rock,
At the other end, a kite.
One small blue wildflower
On this slow grassy hill,
A little like Noellen, I think.
The young girl looked up at him from the book and then over at the young man. “His face hasn’t changed.”
The young man said to her gently, “keep trying”. The other two young men said “yeh, keep trying.” The older woman studied his face intently, her eyes brimming with tears.
The young girl looked down at the book and turned a page. She began to read aloud.
What They Mean
Northwestern University, Evanston Illinois, Autumn 1969
Whenever you walk among the softened copper leaves
On a wispy smoked autumn morning,
See the dim face of a sun eight minutes old,
Feel the warmcool paradox in your body’s secret hiding places,
Hear the gentle shivering at the tops of tall trees,
And possibly wonder what they all mean —
Why, they mean I love you.
She looked up at him. They all looked at him. She looked back down at the book and turned the page.
The Midnight Falls
Indianapolis Indiana 1972
The midnight falls in silent raindrops
From my greylit window forever.
Cars pass through the street in distant sound
And walkers push their hearts against the cold.
Inside my room I hear the sounds of my wife
As she sits upon my bed adjusting her stockings.
I watch her in the mirror above the bureau.
Outside are puddles and reflections.
I am sprawled upon the bed
And run my fingers gently over her white slip
Remembering I am only a child,
A child dreaming of his own family,
Dreaming in a greylit window.
His pupils dilated and his hand twitched inside the hand of the older woman.
“Did you see that?” one of the young men asked.
The older woman said “I felt something, his hand …”
The young girl flipped through some pages until she found what she was looking for. She began to read again.
Duluth Georgia, March 28, 2014
He felt ambiguated
Yes, he thought, that might be the word.
His unbounded happiness had saddened him.
After all, it was bounded
By the foreshortening of his life
From his perspective.
His wide unwieldy wings ached
To enfold his young granddaughter
Whose hair smelt of fresh wheat on a summer hillock.
He wanted to take her in his arms,
His heavy wings thrumping the air
Until slowly rising above the treetops
One with the cobalt sky
They’d soar and swoop
Over quilted fields and shadowed valleys,
Then back for tea and hoops
Back at home
Sometime during the night,
Or was it when he woke?
His wings were gone
But the ache remained
Like phantom limbs.
A tear welled up in his eyes and spilled down his cheeks. He squeezed his wife’s hand and turned his eyes toward his lovely granddaughter. His sons surrounded their mother, comforting her sobs.