Dan Tanner lay awake in bed. He sleeps to the right of Beth. I love her. I love what she used to be, anyway, Dan thinks. Now she is nothing but a shell of her former self. Dead. Good as dead, anyway.
Beth Tanner was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer five years ago. Then the doctor had told Dan she had six months; a year, with radiation treatment. But now it has been five years--five years of misery, Dan Tanner thinks. Five years of being a goddamn caregiver; five years of being off work; five years of her just laying there, wasting away...
The dog, Mr. Bumps, a golden retriever, jumps on the bed, waking up Beth. "Who is this?" she asks. "It's just Mr. Bumps," Dan Tanner says."Who?" Beth asks, feebly. "Mr. Bumps," Dan shouts over the boisterous respirator noises.
Today is the tenth anniversary. Five good years, and five lousy ones, Dan thinks, bitterly, getting out of bed, slipping into his dog slippers. I have a good present for Beth today, and myself, for that matter, Dan thinks. The best present I could give anyone in our situation.
Dan walks to the coffeepot, and presses its red button, Mr. Bumps following him. "Mr. Bumps," he says sadly, sentimentally. "I've found you a new owner. Mr. Drebson. Great fellow, he is. He has a full eight acres of land for you to have fun on and a nice little bitch of your same breed for you to make babies with. In fact, that's the reason he wants you."
Mr. Bumps wags his tail, ignorantly.
Dan picks up the phone . Dials. "Hello.
Mr. Drebson? Oh, you'll be here in an hour? Fantastic, Mr. Drebson. I can't wait; yes, of course. He has all his tags and shots." A pause.
"Okay. See you then. Thanks." Dan hangs up then he calls his mother and father and tells them how much he loves them.
"How is Beth doing?" the mother asks.
"Bad, mom. But I have a feeling she'll start to do better..."
The bell rings from the master bedroom. That goddamn miserable, incessant bell. I've been hearing you whine five years now. Five years of you. I'm not gonna miss you. No, sir.
Dan walks to the master bedroom.
"Yes honey. You rang?"
"Could you make me some oatmeal?" her raspy voice asks.
"Absolutely, hun. Do you know what day today is?"
Silence, except for the respirator.
Then: "Please just get me my oatmeal."
He comes back with a steamy bowl of oatmeal.
He takes off her respirator mask and feeds her with a spoon, like a baby. Her lips, once pouty and naturally bright red are now purple and whithered; her bald head looks so thin and feeble that Dan is afraid that if he kisses it too harshly it will crack and shatter like a cheap dollar store vase. After he feeds her her last spoonful Dan Tanner kisses gently her cold, clammy forehead.
"Happy anniversary, honey. I love you."
He walks into the spare bedroom. The bedroom is bare except for his war decorations and a mahogany desk. He gazes up at the decorations a second. As if they are some kind of reaffirmation to him that his life hasn't been a complete and utter failure. He then opens the uppermost desk drawer and gets out the thirty eight and inspects the chamber. Two bullets.
Dan grabs Mr. Bumpers by the collar and guides him into the living room and leashes him then knotting the leash around the dinner table. On top of the dinner table he leaves all the papers for Mr. Drebson.
Dan then walks back to the bedroom, gun in hand.
He slowly and coolly aims the pistol on the delicate form that breathes sporadically underneath the covers, then fires. He is sure she is dead but checks for a heartbeat anyway. There is none. He then puts the gun inside his mouth the way the Lieutenant had shown him to put it if the Vietcong had ever closed in on him; his hands now shaky.
* * *
Mr. Drebson arrives an hour later. The front door is open but he knocks anyway. He sees the dog tied to the dinnertable inside and goes in to pet him then calls the owner.
"Hello." Silence. He walks farther into the corridor and then that is where he begins to see the terrible mess. Crimson walls, bedsheets, and carpeting...
First he feels for a pulse on the mangled form on the bed. Nothing. Then he feels for the gentleman's on the floor. A slight, weak beat. Mr. Drebson runs to the telephone and dials 9-11.
The paramedics, with the assistance of Mr. Drebson, lift Mr. Tanner on to the gurney then rush him in the howling ambulance to the First Community Hospital.
There Mr. Tanner spent the last five years of his life in a vegatative state.
"Death Do We Part"
Copyright: © 2011 Jack Bristow
------------------------------------Jack Bristow, an all-out weirdo from New Mexico, has written for several online magazines and even one print one. Follow him: @Jackbristo