art by ShotHot Design
Her Old Man
by Chuck Rothman
Rose knew the signs of death better than most. The second she stepped in the hospice room, she knew it was not far off.
The man on the bed was pale and thin, his skin like tissue paper, his hair a few wispy strands that made him look like an ogre. There was a well-worn bible on the bedstand next to him.
He looks so old, thought Rose. Her old man. And even though she had never thought of him that way, it now fit with sad precision.
It had been ages since she had last seen him. He had cut off all communication as soon as she told him about Irene. There were some things not even the closest of family would accept.
He snorted for a moment, then his eyes snapped open. They were as blue as she remembered, but she did not remember the hate.
"What are you doing here?" he snapped.
"You're dying. I had to come."
"Are you still with that bitch?"
She winced only a bit. She had expected this. "Don't blame Irene," she said.
"Who should I blame? She did this to you. You two together--it's an abomination."
Rose sighed. It was my decision, she wanted to say. She makes me happy. "Maybe this was a bad idea."
"It was. You remember what I said."
Like one remembers a burning hot poker to the eye. "You're dead to me," he had said, and when she tried to make a joke about it, he had simply turned and left. If she hadn't happened to hear that he was now under hospice care, it would have been the last words he ever said to her.
"I came here to offer you something," she said.
"You have nothing to give me."
"Not your life? I could turn you," she said. "Make you immortal. You'd still look 82, but you'd be perfectly healthy."