Well, this one was never hard to call. Robert James Russell @robhollywood had a seriously intense entry this week. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I’m amazed and humbled that he pulled that out in five minutes.
So here’s Rob’s entry for the week. Fantastic work Rob!
The plastic tubes feel delicate in my hand. Inconsequential. I run my fingers along the length of them, watching as they disappear up into the darkness of his nostrils. His breathing’s loud and coarse, like it pains him to do even this, the most simplest of biological functions. I feel my left eye twitching and I touch it instinctively, waiting for it to stop, for my body to relax and fall back into the rhythm it once knew intimately. It doesn’t, so I give up and shuffle to the end of the bed. I pick up the chart and thumb through it, half-paying attention as I listen to a gaggle of nurses pass in the hall, listening to their conversations, just in case. I flip through pages of incoherent scribbles from various doctors, passing time.
“How’d you find me?” he says, his eyes still closed, that grainy voice of his as distinctive now as it was forty years ago.
“Evening, Franklin.” I say setting down the chart, smiling. I walk to his side again, my fingers grazing the shoddy hospital blanket covering him as I pass. I can feel his thin legs beneath the fabric, these little twigs, not the muscular pieces of machinery they once were. “You used one of your previous aliases.”
“Was bound to happen,” he says. “My mind…it’s not as sharp as it once was.”
“Happens to all of us.”
‘Not you,” he says through a succession of dry coughs. Once he settles he opens his eyes slowly, focusing on me. He smiles a bit, that familiar smile of his, just different now. Older and more tired.
“I’m not exempt from the laws of nature, old friend. Just hasn’t caught up to me yet is all.”
“How long’s it been, anyway?”
“Since you’ve seen me, I mean. Since we’ve seen each other.”
“Depends on your definition of seen. I’ve seen you through a lens quite a few times. I believe you’ve seen me in the same way.”
“I meant in the traditional sense. Chatted and the like.”
“Yes,” I say looking around the empty room. The bed next to him is empty, the window is partially open, facing west, and looking out over the visitor parking lot.
“Well, like I said, my mind’s not as sharp these days. I’ll take your word.”
“You should. I wouldn’t lie.”
“Well, I’m not,” I say peeking out into the hall. I see a middle-aged doctor
flirting with a nurse.
“You look good,’ Franklin says. I look down at my wrinkled hands, then to the blue cardigan I’m wearing, the type of thing my own grandfather wore when I was a boy.
“Thanks,” I say.
“You know,” he says struggling to sit up, lowering himself back down once he realizes he doesn’t have the strength. “I thought you had me in Oslo.”
I walk to his side and help him sit up, propping the pillow behind his back. “Yeah? In…Ninety Five?”
“That was a close one,” I say smiling warmly.
“It’s funny,” he says.
“I came in for an ordinary ole checkup with the doc a few weeks ago, just a routine physical, he ends up finding something wrong with my ticker and here we are.”
“Just goes to show you there’s no such thing as ordinary, huh?”
“Suppose not. Not in our line of work, anyway.”
“True enough,” I say pulling out a syringe from my pocket. Franklin eyes it, then me, but doesn’t plead. Not a bit. Instead he leans back, trying to relax, ready for what’s coming.
“By the way,” I say looking for the perfect spot in his withered arm to inject the potassium, meeting his gaze as the needle slowly goes in. “This is for Daisy.”