Life on a Deathbed

“Don’t go” he said. “You’re the only one who talks to me.”
I hesitated as I rose halfway from my chair. An apology was on my lips, but I sat back down after I saw his imploring eyes.
I held his hand and patted it. They were wrinkled after two weeks of treatment, devoid of any strength.
“They used to call me Jumbo Jim” he said. “I was the only 6 footer on my middle school team, and oh, you should’ve seen the crowds!”
He was interrupted by a fit of heavy coughs. I started to rise but he held my hand tighter, with whatever strength he could manage. It’s alright, he said.
“Coach would say ‘You can turn the game around, son. Any game you play. You’re the biggest out there, but boy, can you move fast!’ I still remember the dugout. I was third to walk out, always. I would bang my head as I climbed up the stairs until Coach told them to take down the wooden ledge or ‘He’ll get a concussion someday, and then you can watch those empty trophy cabinets all you want!’
“’Jimbo! Jimbo! Jimbo!’ they would chant, as the lights fell on me and I walked up to the court. We would always win the tip-off, and no kid could even try to guard me. I was too big, and too fast. I remember one of them trying to charge me and knock me down as I went for a lay-up.” He smiled. “Poor kid had to leave with a bloody nose.”
“We won the Championship that year. And the next year. And the year after that. I was there on the team longer than anyone, I had to repeat a year you see. That happened twice and then even Coach said he couldn’t play me no more. ‘You’re just older than all the other kids, son. It ain’t fair to them. Heck it ain’t fair to you too either to keep you out, but that’s how it is’. “
He looked at me with a wistful smile.
“That was the best time of my life ma’am. People cheered for me, chanted my name. My friends loved me, Coach loved me too. He said I was the best he had in years.”
Another fit of coughs rocked his body. His once massive frame now looked tiny and pitiful. It was hard to imagine a body as weak and frail as his, jumping and running around with a ball.
“Thanks for talking to me ma’am” he said, although he was much older than I was. “I do think it’s terrible for someone to die alone.”
His strength slowly subsided until I was left holding a limp hand.
This time no one held me back as I got up from the chair.

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