Larry sat up in his hospital bed. Three treatments thus far had not cured him of his ails. In fact, nothing ever really would. By the looks of things, he would be going in and out of consciousness until the day he died. He was told this way of thinking was pessimistic. He argued it was realism in the form of unfortunate circumstance.
The flowers by his window remained so healthy, even after all this time. He wondered if any time had actually passed at all. The colors would become so vibrant in the mornings as the sky turned grey and all the earth seemed so saturated. He never understood why people dreaded grey skies. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t have to wonder much longer.
The hallucinations had distracted him from whoever had brought him the flowers. What a strange thing to do. Bring flowers. He couldn’t imagine who would care that much to bring them. Maybe a nurse? How dreadful— a job in which you are paid little to care for people who may not even deserve care, he thought. Oh well. What a stupid gesture, he thought as his mind shifted directions. He dismissed the question of who brought him the flowers, but now wondered, again, why someone would bring him them in the first place? Genuinely— is it because they think that it will cure him? Is anyone that incompetent? Do they think that maybe, giving a dying person something that’s well on its way living will make them happier?
He felt a jolt in the back of his neck. He winced just before his eyes grew large, their bumpy vessels within them protruding out of a landscape of off-white sour milk. He reached for the little orange cylinder with a white lid sitting on the bedside table. His arm grasped out from beneath the light blue gown that didn’t cover his ass. No one covered his ass.
It was his first day of work at the firm, and as far as he could tell, everyone knew it. He glanced up from his low-cut cubical from time to time to see eyes making contact without changing expressions. No reason to do that, he thought. It was cheap. Why look at someone and then treat them as if they weren’t even there? Everyone is a thinking person just like you. Sorry, Kilgore, but you aren’t the only autonomous individual on planet earth. For some people it’s hard. For some people, they only got this position because someone up there pitied them. Outrageous was what it was. Insensitive, apathetic people, the whole lot of them. Somewhere from behind the glass of that forsaken corner office, a man with a $4000 suit studied Larry. Prick. Larry gave no hint of his unease. That was his superpower. Larry was the god of poker face.
Larry was upset. He took a pill and laid back in his still upright hospital bed. The nurse was there now. She helped him with a glass of water. She consoled him. He was nasty. Like usual, she smiled that warm, crumbly, I’m sad inside smile. Larry felt for a moment. Really felt for her. But she saw nothing.
Larry gazed up at her, his mom gazed back. He looked to the right of where he was standing to see a broken vase less than a few centimeters away from his little feet. It was typical. It happened in over a thousand households within a thousand-mile radius. But that didn’t make it any less painful.
“Stop crying!” his father would practically scream. Crying didn’t help. Crying didn’t do anything except make others pity you. It is a shame to be pitied. Larry didn’t quite get this until he saw, from first-hand experience, the dangers of letting weakness show.
Larry was on an assignment with his older brother to take care of the neighbor’s dogs. He’d been warned that the dogs were dangerous. But Larry loved animals and couldn’t imagine having a problem. That was until Larry looked the mutt in the eyes. It growled. He showed fear for the last time. One moment he was running, the next, teeth were tearing through his clothes and into his flesh on his side, bruising and cutting. His brother laughed. He cried.
Larry sat up in bed, a tear silently falling down his wrinkled face. The hallucinations were getting worse. His nurse had come in a third time in the past hour, nagging him to take his medication. He said he did. She had seen him do it, too. But one more wouldn’t hurt, he thought, after she left. Anything to stop the visions. He lifted his pill to his mouth.
Larry lifted his cigar to his mouth, then let it drop as voluptuous Miss Wezel came tiptoeing in. She let the door quietly shut behind her. Her eyes suggested mischief, her body begged for it. Larry scooted his chair back and smiled devilishly.
After proceeding to her knees before his widespread legs, she looked up and asked, “And this will get me—?” There was no reason for her to finish until he did.
The nurse swept the remaining pills off of the floor. She was on her hands and knees making sure she didn’t miss a single one. She straightened her back, sitting at eye level with Larry’s bed. A cylindrical mass suspending the fabric of his pants caught her gaze. She backed away, scolding, reddening. Larry lay alone.
Keith, his buddy from within the firm, complained to him. Would you get off the couch? Would you listen? What’s the point of this? The company is plenty big as it is. Blah. Blah. Blah. The merger was happening and Keith, whatever his title, was on his way out. Hey Keith, you’re fired. Larry’s poker face gave way to a smile.
He lay for quite some time. Alone. The flowers stopped coming. In fact, they died. Some bedside manners. Then, the door knocked. A man, aged beyond recognition, walked through Larry’s door.
Hear you aren’t going to be with us, Larry. Seem pretty stale in here, Larry. Good. Doctors say you’re reliving memories in here. All alone. Been pretty nasty to the nurses, they say.
Keith chuckled. That’s so like you, Larry. So like you. Been taking those pills, Larry? They just don’t work the way they used to, huh? Another chuckle and then a long, unblinking, unsmiling stare. They just don’t work.
The voluptuous woman from the office took another step in; she made herself at home. She picked up a bottle, held in up to the light. Yeah, they’re sugar. She popped the lid off and downed the whole bottle. She munched loudly, walking over to the window.
Larry’s father chuckled while watching a man in a wheelchair visit with his family outside. He turned around with that rage Larry remembered him for. He cocked his right hand, preparing for a slap that’d never come. He lowered it.
Larry felt the soft touch of his mother’s hand on his face. Oh, Larry. All the success you could’ve asked for. And here you are, all alone. Your only visitor is the person who’s killed you.
A stranger walked back to the door. They turned and studied Larry’s decaying, lost face. Funny, the stranger said in a voice that sounded like radio interference, that’s the most emotion you’ve ever shown me. They looked at their phone, time’s up. Goodbye, dad. With a wave of their hand, the kiddo gave one hell of a poker face walking down the hall.