by Joy Renee
part 2 (part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5)
"I thought you’d gone off camping with Aunt Carla and Uncle Ron." She continued to call Greg’s parents Aunt and Uncle as she had all her life. Carla Kelsey Vickerson having been Irene’s best friend since college, the two families were as entwined as needle and thread.
"Candy Kiss fell asleep in the waves and the hell copper couldn’t wake her up and it flew her into the sky." Daisy May sing-songed against Iris’ neck.
"What?" Iris shot the question at her parents.
"Candice has had another seizure. It looks very bad this time." Irene spoke carefully, her voice calm but her eyes locked on Iris’ as she doled out the weighted words one by one. "It happened while the girls were playing in the surf, so we assumed at first she had drowned."
"Iris disentangled herself from Daisy May who bent to pick up the Koosh ball at her feet. "Let’s play catch" She tugged at her sister’s hand.
"Later, Sis." She patted Daisy May’s arm. "I need to talk to Mom right now."
"Mommy can’t wake up Candy Kiss either and Auntie Carla cried black tears all over Uncle Ron’s shirt." Daisy May held the Koosh ball by one stretchy strand and watched it twirl, completely absorbed by its revolutions, as if they held clues to the meaning of life.
"Mom?" Iris’ voice was pitched high with panic.
"We didn’t want you to hear this over the phone." Irene said. "We’ve been driving for hours. And no sleep last night. Dad needs a cup of coffee." She nodded towards Daisy May and then towards the kitchen.
Iris followed her mother through the dining room and into the kitchen where she began fumbling with the coffee maker. She caught sight of Greg standing at the other end of the kitchen, in the doorway that led into the long hallway which joined the living-room to the rest of the rooms. He stood to his full height, as though on guard, arms across his chest. Even without his uniform he looked like the court bailiff he was on week-days. He stood like a mountain, a ward against all but earth-shattering disaster.
"What’s going on Mom?" she dropped the box of filters on the floor.
"Never mind, dear." Her mother bent to lay a hand on hers as she bent to retrieve the filters. Their heads collided. The box slipped from her fingers and tumbled across the floor, scattering filters helter-skelter. "The coffee was just a ruse to get you in here. Little pitchers have big ears." Irene raised an eyebrow in the direction of the living room where sounds from the television informed them that Daisy May was occupied.
Iris looked at her mother through the sheen of tears brought to her eyes by the bump on her head. They each held a hand to their scalps, rubbing their sore spots like some bizarre mirror image. This brought a grin to Iris’ lips but, sensing the seriousness of her mother’s news, she restrained it.
"So, is she in coma again?" She was already thinking how to rearrange her schedule so as to participate in the around-the-clock bed-side vigils that had become near routine in the fifteen years since Candy’s first coma at age three.
But Irene was shaking her head and Iris felt suddenly that it was imperative that she go stand by Greg, even behind him, to be shielded from her mother’s next words. But the obstacles between them were insurmountable, not the least of which were space and time. For the words were coming NOW and even as she heard them, before their import reached her, she saw their impact on Greg, saw his shields buckle. No protection there.
"No." Irene was saying. "It’s not coma this time." Her pause to draw breath was an eternity inflated, was no time at all. "This time she’s brain-dead."
Her mother had laid the words out between them with the bluntness of shock--to her way of thinking, kinder than drawing out their hope, but leaving them un-tethered in a suddenly weightless world. And into the well of silence her voice had dug rang the laugh they all knew as Candy’s.