Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sam and Sheila

Well, I returned from my trip home to see my older son, my brothers and sister and all the assorted in-laws, nephews, nieces, cousins, and the like. The result? I’m convinced I have pretty good kinfolk. I’m likely the only member dragging down the family reputation.

I hope you enjoyed Mark’s story about Hawk and Grove last week. Got a pretty good number of views, so someone must have cottoned to it. (I've been in Texas, recently, you know)

This week hits a more somber tone. Some will wonder why I wrote it, but such situations do arise, and each individual meets them in his or her own way. Anyway, let’s learn about Sam and Sheila.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

          “Sheila, you know I love you, don’t you?”
          “Yes, I know you do, Sam,” came the tremulous reply.
          I’d said that to her every day for over fifty years, but this time it held a special significance. I positioned the pistol, closed my eyes, and pulled the trigger.
          I couldn’t bear to look at her poor, broken body, but neither could I resist giving her a long, tight hug. My salty tears disturbed the slight film of powder on her soft, lined cheek. Lifting my head, I gazed upon her delicate features, serene now that the thing growing inside her lungs no longer tortured her. The delicate blush of lipstick on her lips and a touch of mascara on her lids—now closed forever tore a sob from me.
          Cruel reality struck like a tornado, drawing breath from me and sending my mind whirling. The thought, the idea…the plan had seemed benevolent—heroic even—but the act rendered everything into bone and gristle and blood. How could such a frail little body hold so much blood? The gun, a Luger brought back from the war, fell from my nerveless fingers, and I scrambled out of that death bed on legs that would hardly hold me. I made it to the bathroom, fell on my knees and retched into the stool. I vomited until there was nothing left in my stomach and then threw up again. My nausea was no longer of the physical. It was now more of the spiritual. And there was a lifetime of ugliness to expunge there. But eventually, even that was drained, and I labored to my feet and stood on shaky legs.
          A wild-eyed old man stared back at me from the vanity mirror, his hazel eyes sunk in puffy pouches. Once taut flesh sagged like his face was disintegrating. I watched him gasp for breath, but the air no longer held enough oxygen. Inhaling brought only desperation and sadness and terrible, crushing loneliness. What was wrong with him… me. Sheila would know….
I gagged on the thought. Sheila had always known how to take care of me, even when I didn’t. In her gentle way, she nagged and coaxed until I gave in to her wishes only to find her judgment had been correct. She had tended my body, my mind, and my spirit for all these years without seeming to give a minute’s thought to what a mulish clod I could be.
          Until last year, that is. We didn’t know what the problem was for a long time, but she lost her energy and suffered aches and pains so severe they brought complaints from a strong but gentle woman who never complained. The doctors fussed and prodded and MRId this and scanned that until we used up our medical benefits for the year. Then our savings went, and a mortgage on the house became necessary.
          Eventually, the medics wanted to put her in hospice, but that was like giving up, wasn’t it? I saw that the idea frightened her, and not much frightened my mate of half a century. So I declined. Things got no better. More pain. More medication, which brought more nausea, more exhaustion, and more insomnia, and eroded her will to live.
          She began asking me to help her months ago. I, of course, wouldn’t hear of it. But she grew steadily worse. Medication stopped even pretending it kept the pain at bay. Her suffering was unbearable—to me, as well as to her. A week ago, her pestering requests began to take on a note of earnestness. She was mortified when I had to help her with her personal hygiene, even though she’d done the same for me during my bout of pneumonia two years back. Last night, when she cried in the darkness for the third night in a row, I made up my mind.
          This morning, I helped her apply her makeup—she never used much—and dress in her church clothes. She was calm as we lay beside one another for half an hour, reminiscing about family—not many of them left now—friends, and our years together. Then I did what I promised to do.
The old man’s eyes staring back at me through the mirror widened in horror. Oh Lord! I’d murdered my wife. Killed the woman I’d loved since I was sixteen. Taken a life I had no right to take.
          I closed my eyes a moment before opening them and staring at my accuser… myself. He was wrong. I did what she wanted. No, what she needed. I released her from her suffering, sent her to a better place. There was no way that beautiful soul wouldn’t have earned a spot in heaven. Now she was pain-free and happy. Most likely greeting the son and daughter we’d lost years ago. Chatting with her mother and sisters… and missing me.
          That thought made what came next much easier. I shucked my bloody clothes, washed and shaved, and dressed in my Sunday duds before lying back down beside Sheila.
          Then I picked up the Luger and pulled the trigger.

I can’t ask if you enjoyed the story… who could? But did it make you grapple around in your memory and wonder if you’ve known people desperate enough to go to such lengths? And if you could have helped in some way?

The following information provides contact information and the DSP Publications links:

Don Travis Email:
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Twitter: @dontravis3

As always, thank for being a reader.


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