“Ms. Sutton, we’d like to hand medical power of attorney over to you as was specified in your father’s paperwork,” the doctor said. She flipped through the pages on her clipboard, handed it to me and then crossed her arms. She peered at me through glasses that had slipped down her nose as I signed.
“How bad is he?” The administrator slipped silently out the door, taking my signature with him.
“Well, the outlook isn’t great. He’s dependent on life support right now and we’ll continue to run some tests on him to see how much brain function he has.”
She wasn’t painting a pretty picture, but I hadn’t expected one.
“He squeezed my hand. I asked him if he could hear me and he squeezed my hand back, right before you walked in.” The doctor nodded her head but didn’t look as enthusiastic as I did.
“That’s good news, but movements like that can sometimes be reflexes. Those are called Lazarus signs and can sometime bring more hope than they’re really worth giving.”
“Can he hear me if I say goodbye?” I didn’t feel like beating around the bush. It was obvious what she was saying. I might not have finished college, but I could read between the lines as well as anybody else. Paul was gone already and I’d eventually have to come to terms with that. But I wanted a goodbye, I wanted him to have my forgiveness before he left this earth.
“Some people do believe that even in a vegetative state, our loved ones can still hear us. I’d like to think that’s true. Why don’t you take a few minutes to be with your father. There’s no rush, whenever you’re ready just let them know at the nurses’ station and we can reconvene and discuss our plan of action for tomorrow.”
“Okay,” I said looking up at her from my chair. I’d picked Paul’s hand up again after signing the papers. I wasn’t ready to let go. I could feel tears prick my eyes, warning me they were ready to fall.
As soon as she walked out of the room, I laid my head on his chest.
“I know you tried, dad. We gave it our best shot.”
Okay. I was being destructive and reckless. I’d polished off half a bottle of scotch and started the hatchet toss in my backyard. Two hours later and I was raving drunk, graduated from axes and onto my guns. I owned a good piece of land and it was surrounded by security wire. I kept my property private and protected, it was all part of my line of work. But maybe it was a tad irresponsible to get wasted while distraught and start shooting off guns. I swear I started out with a target, had a plan that, in its hashing, seemed logical.
I had no idea what time it was or how long they’d been at the hospital. Kyle gave me text updates for a while, but I’d dropped my phone back by the shed, right into the mud. I knew two things, that Paul wasn’t going to make it unless someone called in a miracle and that Olivia would hate me for ruining her life. As a bounty hunter, I had impeccable timing. As a regular guy-guy, I sucked. She’d associate me with regret for the rest of her life, and that was the best-case scenario.
I stumbled around the yard and spun the revolver in my hand. I wasn’t going to do anything stupid, just blow off some steam until I either ran out of scotch or bullets—whichever came first. I took a swig from the bottle and realized it was empty. I tossed it into the side of the shed where it shattered, the pieces raining down the side with a pleasant tinkling sound.
“Fuck!” I yelled as I brought my hands to face.
I’d forgotten about Aunt Annie and suddenly she was there in my face scolding me, like I was her second son.
“You listen to me, Silas, and you listen good. I know you haven’t had it easy thanks to that woman who dared to call herself your mother, but that doesn’t give you the right to destroy your own chance at happiness.” She had her hand on my arm and shook it as if she could shake some sense into me.
“Too late, Annie. I already blew it,” I slurred.
“Ten years ago, you welcomed me inside, you let your guard down and allowed me to help you. That was one of the happiest days of my life. You were so angry when you came to live with us. You pushed me away and I held on for dear life. Silas, I was tough on you, you know how tough I am. My dear boy, Olivia is just like you, she has been scarred from life too. You can’t treat her the way you treat Kyle or me. Her heart can’t take it. Let her know how you feel. Hiding your feelings isn’t going to make them go away.”