Lord, have Mercy:
Mercy spent all of two days just trying to breathe, her ribs aching, her flesh exhausted.
Then Dr. Dumas came in to say he was out of tricks.
Tricks are for kids, she would have replied, but had no air to speak.
The foggy bag of her oxygen mask ballooned with each breath.
Mercy stared with liquid eyes at Dumas.
Her daughter Jessica reached for her hand.
Dumas said, “If we put the breathing tube down your throat again, you won’t recover like you did before. Your lungs have reached the point where they’re just too stiff.”
“So . . . so,” she gasped, trying to clarify the matter.
“So if we put you on the respirator, you’ll be on it the rest of your life, however long that may be.”
“Don’t want that.”
“Neither would I,” he agreed, and walked out to set the paperwork in motion.
Tears streamed down Jessica’s face as she leaned into the bed to hug Mercy’s shoulders. “Oh, Mom, I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. Not your fault.”
The next time Jessica left the room, Mercy managed to pull off her oxygen mask. Bells dinged.
The nurse strapped the mask on again.
“No. No point,” said Mercy. “Rid of it.”
“Honest to God?” said the nurse.
“I’ll have to get an order to leave it off.”
Mercy watched her go, the little pawn. Get an order. It’s my order.
Who was in charge, anyway?
Her lungs sucked rapidly with a life of their own. She drowsed.
She dreamed of every person who had ever touched her.
At sunset Jessica stroked her arm. “How about a little supper, Mom?”
“No. Why –
am I –
“Maybe you’re better than Dr. Dumas thought. Want some ice cream?”
Mercy’s arms and legs felt like long lumps of nothing. She waited to lose more. She prayed. A little. Just in case it might matter on the other end.
Some time past midnight the night nurse aimed a strong flashlight at Mercy’s eyes and pulled up her lids.
Mercy shook her head. She wanted to cry. “Still here?” she pleaded.
“Of course. I’ll be here all night,” said the nurse.
Mercy stewed awhile, then drifted.
As the hours passed, her midsection grew numb.
The double-beat tempo of her lungs quickened.
The sun rose, and Mercy cursed the light.
Tiny dust motes sparkled in the air. She remembered her first sight of sunlit motes, cascading beyond the bars of her crib.
“Why. Am I. Still here?” she asked Dr. Dumas.
He shrugged and patted her hand. “Patience. Don’t give up.”
(Written by D.Stallings ©2003. Many Thanks to my dear friend Carol K. who rescued this one from oblivion.)