This story is by Phyllis Brandano and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
A faint light streams through the window and a constant beep chirps in the distance.
Hey, where am I?
What’s going on?
Can’t you hear me?
Several shadows of bodies move closer then farther away.
Wait a minute. I see faces but they’re a blur. Relax. Breathe. It’ll be
harder if you force it. Try again.
Hello? I don’t hear my voice.
Can anyone hear me?
“Does he have a chance, Dr. Marshall? He’s been ill for such a long time. We only want what’s best for him.”
“I understand, George but your father had a stroke. By the time the ambulance got to him, the damage was severe. We’ll have to wait and see.”
After adjusting the IV, Dr. Marshall leaves the room.
I know those faces. My children. I’m here. Please help me. Say something, George. Eddie. Tricia. Where’s Willie?
“What do you think, George? Is the old man gonna make it? You have the most to lose.”
“Shut up, Ralph. If it wasn’t for my sister, you wouldn’t even be in this family. Let me think.”
“What’s there to think about?” said Eddie. “You did what needed to be done. We all know that.”
“I know but I looked in his eyes. He was pleading with me to help him but I just stood there.” George leaned in and waved his hands over the old man’s face. No response.
“But what if he wakes up,” said Tricia, “he’ll know what happened. Then what will we do?”
Dr. Marshall returns and changes the IV bag. “There’s not much you can do for him now. Why don’t you all go to the cafeteria for some coffee? I’ll let you know if anything changes.”
“Come on, Tricia. Let’s take a break.” Ralph takes his wife’s arm and walks out. George and Eddie follow.
Dr. Marshall leans over Frank Stanton. “I think you can understand me, Sweetheart. I’m sorry this is happening. You had a stroke that may have caused what we call pseudocoma. You are aware but you can’t move or speak. I know your children did this. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they pay for it. You’ll see.”
Is that you, Sandra? Thank God. You know I’m in here. You said my children did this to me. I don’t remember. But at least I have you.
A tall dark haired man enters the room and walks toward Dr Marshall. He is younger than the others and handsome. He has his father’s blue eyes.
“Where is everyone? I thought they’d be crowded around like vultures waiting for the old man to die.”
Dr. Marshall adjusts the machines keeping care of her patient. “I sent them to the cafeteria. There’s nothing anyone can do now.”
After speaking with the doctor privately Willie Stanton stands over his father’s bed. He stares into the old man’s eyes and a smile crosses his lips. “Hey, Dad. I’m glad you made it to the hospital. My siblings think that speeding up your demise is going to make them richer that much quicker. Ridiculous.”
Willie. I’m so glad you’re here, son. I wish you could hear me.
“So Dad, since I’m the only one speaking, I might as well let you in on where we are.” Willie pulls up a chair next to his father’s bed. He speaks slowly.
“George owes Nick Parisi fifty thousand dollars for his gambling debts. He only has three days left to pay before he loses the use of his legs. You remember Nick. He’s not a patient man.”
George told me he was done with that years ago. All those times I bailed him out. What good did it do?
“Of course, in fairness to George his lovely wife, Marion’s obsessive demand to own every designer label and piece of Harry Winston jewelry contributed to his need for extra cash so you can’t really blame him alone.”
How many times did I warn him about Marion’s spending? She never learned to do without.
“As for Eddie, you know how much he loves single malt scotch. The bars and nightclubs didn’t have the heart to turn away one of the Stanton boys so now he owes everyone in town.”
All those trips to the rehab clinic. Thousands of dollars spent. Nothing was going to help. What a waste!
“Now, we come to poor Trish. Her weakness is weak men which is why she married Ralph and can’t cut him off. He’s still seeing that waitress from the diner but Trish is the only one who doesn’t know.”
My sweet girl. I wish her mom was still alive. She could’ve set her straight about Ralph. But at least I have you, Willie. You’re the only one who wasn’t a disappointment. And of course, my lovely, Sandra.
Willie holds his father’s hand. “Quite a legacy there, Dad. You got on George’s case cause he was the oldest. He tried everything but could never measure up. For Eddie, he was just a screw up from the word go. There was nothing anyone could do about that. As for Trish, she never had a chance. With all the testosterone in the place and ma dying so young, what was left for her except to marry a man who steals women’s money and then their souls?”
I worked hard my whole life to give the family every advantage and this is what’s left. Thank God for you, Willie. You’re the best of me.
Willie squeezes his father’s hand. “That just leaves me, Dad. You know I’ve always been a fan. You gave me what you could but pretty much left me to fend for myself. I learned to take what I needed by watching you so that’s what’s happening now.”
I’m sorry Willie. I wish I did more for you.
“Being the youngest, the others didn’t include me in their plans. They probably thought I’d try to stop them or at least, tell you. The thing is, Dad, I already knew you married Sandra secretly years ago. I knew how you felt about your ungrateful children and that you changed your will to leave them nothing. But I knew you wouldn’t do that to me. You made Sandra my trustee so I’d be taken care of in the event something happened. You don’t know how grateful I am for that, Dad.”
Dr. Marshall comes back into the room this time with hospital security. She shows the two men a pile of test results.
“I found unusually high levels of warfarin and Lipitor in Mr Stanton’s blood,” she said. “Since these drugs weren’t prescribed by me in these amounts, I can only assume they were given with the deliberate intention of doing Mr Stanton harm. His current condition is the direct result of that interference. This is now a matter for the police.”
I can’t believe my children hate me this much! I gave them everything.
At that moment, George, Eddie, Tricia and Ralph enter the room.
“I see you made it, Willie”, George said. “Nice of you to find the time.”
“You know I’ll always find the time for Dad, George. Besides, I have plenty. More than you, I’d say. I think you’d better get yourselves a good lawyer.”
Several voices start yelling at once but eventually, the Stantons are escorted out of the room by security. All except Willie.
“So you see, Dad, everything worked out. The others won’t be getting any of your fortune which is what you wanted and Sandra will be there to take care of both of us.”
Dr. Marshall stands next to Frank’s bed and turns to Willie “Are you ready?”
“Just about. By the way, Dad, Sandra and I have been having an affair for a while now. She knew the others would never accept her as your wife and would tie us up in probate for years so we came up with a plan. It was different than the one George, Eddie and Trish came up with but it all worked out. Even if they make a fuss, no one’s ever going to believe a story from children who tried to murder their own father. Well, that’s everything, Dad except I’m sorry it had to end this way. But I guess it’s just the kind of family a man like you would make. I’m ready now, Darling.”
No, please. Don’t do this. I love you both. Someone help me. Please.
Willie and Sandra embrace as she reaches around turning off the final machine.
A faint light streams through the window but the distance is silent.