Would you look at that! I think I just broke some kind of “longest chapter to write ever” record! Well. Hope it’s good enough to make up for the wait. In my opinion, even though I tried to dial down the emotion a little bit for breathing room, it’s still pretty raw. But at this point…I mean, realistically in a situation like this it would be raw. And wriggling. =) I also thought I’d try out a little experiment regarding punctuation and grammar in parts of this chapter, so if there are sections that seem like they maybe don’t fit with similar sections in other chapters…it’s ’cause it’s an experiment. Let me know what you think!
The Foolish and the Weak 4.0
It was not what he had expected. Jenn, sitting at the other end of the waiting room, dry-eyed and furious – Jenn, reading Sports Illustrated of all things, refusing to look up at him because it was his fault, once more, that her son was hurt.
And the worst of it is that I know. She doesn’t. She thinks he just broke his leg or needs stitches, and she doesn’t know because I didn’t tell her. If I had the guts to just out and tell her, she wouldn’t be angry…
Let her be angry. It’s the best thing for her, now. Better that I carry the burden of this knowledge for her. I’m strong enough to carry it for us both.
The shadows began to creep forward again, began not to whisper but to shroud his mind with words that were his own and not his own.
no…no, that’s not it at all. you’re not strong. you just don’t have the grit to tell her the truth. you didn’t have the grit to tell yourself so let her be angry brian. let her be angry and let yourself be a coward
And then there was Christian, sitting in the exact middle between the two of them, uniting them by his presence… and, because of their distance, sitting alone. His chubby legs swung restlessly against the plastic seat and in one arm he cradled a worn baseball cap, the Giants one that Matthew wore most. He wasn’t crying, either, just staring at his jerking sneaker laces and clutching his brother’s hat.
He was a little trooper today. Handled himself well, but man, kids shouldn’t have to see things like that.
(the rain that night fell as blood falls from a wound, sweeping down the road in irregular throbs. in the light of the emergency flashers, the water was red. as red as love and as red as death.)
Nobody should have to see things like that.
Brian drew his hand over his eyes.
“Hey, kiddo,” he said to Christian, “you look lonely. You want to come sit on my lap…”
“No.” The word came out rough and scratched, as though Christian were speaking through sandpaper. “No…sir.”
Then Brian knew that his youngest son was not so much a trooper as scared, too scared to cry or to snuggle close to him or to call him Daddy. He wasn’t a trooper at all…he was a frightened child who had lost all bearings, and unexpectedly Brian felt that there was this link between them that had never been there before.
(Always there was a wall, a vine-covered wall that separated him from his youngest son, just as the rose-covered wall separated him from his wife.
Matthew had no walls.)
Never any walls with Matthew. But now there was something between them: a river. Red, like a river in Egypt.
I can’t help you across the river, son. You’ll have to do it yourself; you’ll have to fight it out alone. All I can do is wait for you on the other side.
Abruptly Brian got up and went over to kneel next to Jenn’s chair. He took her hand, like he had that day when he knelt and offered her his bleeding heart, and he bent close and whispered because, if you whispered, it didn’t hurt as much. “Jenn…I gotta tell you something.”
She lifted her eyes, blue and dewy like a rain-washed sky. There were a few furtive grey streaks on her face where tears had drawn lines in her makeup. So she had cried a little, after all. That was bad. Brian hated to see her cry. But if he whispered…maybe it would make it all right.
“Jenn…I told you that Matthew crashed his bike. I told you…” His lips went dry and he ran his tongue over them. “I told you he was hurt pretty bad.”
“Yeah?” she breathed. The magazine dropped to the floor, crushing the pages as it fell.
“I didn’t tell you how bad.” Brian shut his eyes and gathered himself together for the hurdle. “I didn’t tell you—”
“Excuse me…Mr. Tracy?” A girl in pink polka-dotted scrubs came in, her face blanched as though she were in secret, physical pain. “I…um, the doctor sent me out to give you an update. Your son is still in surgery. At this time I cannot say how long it will be before you can see him.” Her words jerked over each other mechanically. “The car was going pretty fast when it struck…the damage is extensive…please be assured they are doing everything they can.” Her eyes ducked and swerved to meet Jenn’s, and then she turned and fled from the room with her hand pressed against her mouth.
The clock ticked once, twice…five times, each silent slice of time longer than the last.
“You didn’t tell me…” Jenn echoed, vacantly. “What didn’t you tell me, Brian, what – didn’t you – tell me!” She beat her clenched hands wildly on his chest, her breath coming hard and fast when it came at all and all he could do was hold her close.
“I’m so sorry, darling – I tried and I couldn’t…I couldn’t, you know…” All he could do was hold her close and whisper.
Four hours later, when the girl in the polka-dotted scrubs returned, she was followed by the surgeon.