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Writings from the Porch 

March 21, 2017

The Nothing

for Paul

He is telling a story, propped up in his hospital bed, smoking a cigarette. But his heart isn’t in it. Not this time. He slowly crushes the cigarette into an aluminum foil ashtray, making sure that no ash falls over the side. The story is gone. We just sit quietly, looking out the window, looking at the top of the tree that stands alone at the edge of the parking lot. Just looking.

A jolly nurse comes in to brush his hair, ignoring the pack of Kents, Zippo lighter and makeshift ashtray quietly being placed in the drawer of the bedside table. His once thick mane of silver waves and curls has begun to flatten of late. She brushes it straight back until he is a lion in the wind.

Ten minutes later she sets the brush down, pleasantly saying she would let us visit, as if I hadn’t been there every day for two weeks. We all smile.

He turns his head to look directly at me. The story is coming back. “The mind searches, son; give it room to search,” he says, his eyes turning toward the tree.