“Is there a red light flashing above me?”
“A red light.”
“Is that you Mark?”
“Yes. I’m here now.”
All four are around him. They begin taking turns to sleep in a room just off the ward where there’s a chair, bed, kettle, tea bags and cups.
Beside their father they talk amongst themselves. They listen to the beeping, watch him shake.
“Can you put the light on?”
“It’s night dad. Rest.”
In the room they can’t relax.
“How was the journey Mark?”
“3 hours. Rain all the way. A & E was full of police. I had to wait my turn behind them. At the desk they told me dad wasn’t there. I ran to the main reception desk and they said try here. I didn’t know what to expect. I hate hospitals. I can see why mum never wanted to go in.”
“He’s never really got over her has he. While you were driving they told us his blood pressure had dropped too far and he had 10 minutes left. We thought he’d given up. Now they’re saying the next 6 hours will be crucial. I’m glad you made it. Did you see the murderer in A&E?”
They rest, then swop places with the two by the bed. When the glowing numbers go down they wake the others.
He hears the bells of the level crossing as the gates clatter down.
“Quick,” he says. He thinks he’d better not reach out for her hand, it’s their first time out together. She follows him as he weaves through the people and climbs the footbridge over the tracks.
“I always do this. You have to stand just here.”
She stands where he says, beside him.
“Look down as the train passes. If the puffs are right you’ll see the glowing coals down the funnel. It’s coming now. Lean your head over.”
The hot train rattles beneath them.
“Did you see the coals?” he shouts.
“The smoke’s got in your hair.”
“It doesn’t matter. I liked it.”
Tim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet Moving Parts (HappenStance, 2010) and a story collection By all means (Nine Arches Press, 2012). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His poetry and prose have appeared in Stand, Rialto, Oxford Poetry, Short Fiction, New Walk, etc. He blogs at litrefs.blogspot.com Twitter: @TimLoveWriter Facebook: facebook.com/tim.love.315
Image: Rishi Deep