The Halloween Project 2022 - Story 1: The Farthest Flight
Year Number Six of the Halloween Project.
This simple ghost tale is dedicated to my father
April 10, 1926 - September 7, 2022
“Hey kid,” the old man mumbled heavily from his hospice bed, “You came to see me off.”
“Of course I came,” the young man replied softly, eyeing the snakelike tubes receding under the sheet. Monitors and machines clicked or flashed, blinking red numbers. The room streamed Florida sunlight through the half-closed blinds. “I came the only way I could,” he continued.
“I’m glad,” but the words came out,”iii-yyuummm ggllaaadddd.”
The younger man sat lightly on the nearest hospital issue chair and grasped the old man’s hand.
“Jesus, you’re cold,” he said.
You tooooo!” was the garbled reply.
“Need a blanket?” was returned with a slow and shallow nod. The younger man rose, reached up to a nearby shelf, clutched a throw and spread it over the thinned and frail frame.
“Better?” was answered by another nod.
“You’ve been quite a dad,” the young man began and the old man’s eyes brightened, ”Depression kid, your father owns a hotel, bar and barbershop, World War II soldier, deer hunting, Post Office and all the rest. Then off to Florida, golf and poker for all those years. Fun with mom until she got sick. And the rock-n-roll. We can’t forget the rock-n-roll. Remember we saw Wilson Pickett, and Chuck Berry, and B.B. King! You even met B.B. King backstage that time.”
Through the pain-killing medications, the old man’s eyes widened further and a smile curled up the working side of his face.
“We didn’t always get along, but that’s all in the past now. And 102. Who the hell lives to be 102?!” The old man’s eyes blinked, then opened once again. Through the misty haze of memory he rested his glance on the young man and he knew. He realized.
A nurse entered the room, laden down with two vials, two replacement pouches for IVs, and fast talk.
“I didn’t see you come in? How did you slip by our desk? You look like him, I mean enough. Like him. I mean when he was younger. Much younger.” She turned and asked, “How’s he doin?”
The young man shrugged.
The nurse continued apace.
“Well, he appears to be resting comfortably. I think we found the exact right dose to keep him at ease. I assure you he’s in no pain at all, but at the same time, he’s not really able to communicate very well. A few words here and there.” She leaned very close to the young man in the chair and whispered, “His numbers are really not too good. I don’t think it will be too long now.” She brightly felt a strong vibration, an electrical charge, but not a word or movement from the younger man.
A bustling of footsteps clicked, approaching from the hallway. The nurse moved quickly toward the door. A woman, fashionable and older, sporting long white hair pulled into a bun, met her in the doorway.
“How is he today?” the woman asked breathlessly.
“Susan,” the nurse began, “Your father is one strong old cuss. You’ve been coming here every day for the last two months and I think he’s alive because of your visits. But it’s close now. Real close.”
Susan knew. She had known for a very long time that this was coming. She was prepared. And she wasn’t. It was just that it was really happening now. She moved passed the nurse, eyeing her father, his eyes closed, calmly resting.
“And it was so nice of your brother to finally come by,” the nurse called over her shoulder, “He looks so young!”
Susan froze mid-step. Seconds retreated. She turned,
“Just…just a second!” Susan called, “My brother?”
Just outside the door, the nurse leaned back, “Yes. He put a blanket on your dad and made him smile.”
“My brother? Was here?”
The nurse began, “Yes, he’s sitting right there,” she twisted from a distance to look over and passed Susan’s shoulder toward the bed. “Well, where did he go? How did he slip by us?” she turned glancing left and right down the hall.
“Well I’ll be damn…” she began before Susan interrupted.
“My brother,” she began very softly and extremely slowly, “My brother died 15 years ago in a plane crash…flying down from New York…to visit our dad.”
Susan turned back to the bed and could see that her father was indeed smiling.