While Father dies, Mother fishes in her
pocketbook to find twenty-five cents, my
allowance for the week. I was hoping
for more but I shouldn’t be selfish now
more than ever. I pocket it. She says
Go in there and say goodbye to Father.
Alright, I say. The nurse is coming out
and I bump her in a soft, padded place,
on her, I mean. I’m only 8 and she
must be over 30. That’s pretty grown.
Excuse me, she says, and smiles. I smile, too.
I stand beside Father’s hospital bed.
He’s wired up like a fancy TV set.
He’s got tubes in his nose. They help him breathe
because at the other end there’s pure air.
Oxygen. That sounds like Oxydol, my
mother’s favorite laundry soap but it’s
not the same. Maybe half the same. “Oxy-”
Hello, son, Father says. Or should I say
goodbye? He smiles. I smile. Mother gave me
my allowance, I say. I’m off the hook,
then, he says. He smiles again. So do I.
I look around for a hook. Where’s the hook,
I ask. It’s a figure of speech, he says.
Oh, I say. What’s that? Well, ask your mother
when I’m gone, he says. Okay, I say. Where
are you going? I’m not too sure, he says.
But I’ll be gone soon. You’ll have to take care
of your mother. Okay, I’ll say. I’ll quit
school and get a job. He smiles. I do, too.
Stay in school, he say. That’s how to help her.
Okay, I say. I was hoping for no
more tests. He shuts his eyes. I shut mine. But
I peek. He doesn’t. This must be what death
is, at least on my side of it. It’s not
so bad so far. I guess I won’t know more
about it ’til it happens to me. His
mouth opens. He says nothing. I hear it.
The nurse comes back. I’m sorry, she says, but
he’s gone. That’s a figure of speech, I say.
Gale Acuff has published hundreds of poems in journals and is the author of three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the US, China, and Palestine.