The One I Cannot Face: A Short Story

He will be here soon – the one I cannot face.

I hear his footsteps even now, and my heart cringes at every stomp of his heavy boots. It won’t be long now – he will stream right through my apartment door, solid though it is. He will march his way right up to my bedside and look me in the eye, glaring with passionate glee – but I will not be able to meet his gaze. Even if I had my strength, I would not be able to face him, but as it is, I can do nothing but cower. Cancer has sucked my body dry, swallowing my strength.

Now I hear the crunch of gravel as my son Forrest drives up. He has taken care of me these past few weeks since the diagnosis. I hear his footsteps as he makes his way into the apartment complex and my little prison in the back. Unlocking the door, he walks in, his arms full of Walmart bags.

He glances over at the corner where I lie in bed. “Hey Dad. You feeling ok? What have you been up to today?”

I silently stare out the small window by my bed.

Forrest pops open the fridge and begins stowing the groceries away. He continues talking, as if unwilling to let silence gain a foothold.

“Classes were good today. Proff. Everton lectured on the mystery of consciousness. Y’know: how we aren’t quite sure how neurons firing at each other in our brains can give rise to the mind, with its non-mechanical processes and unique personality traits. It’s all extremely fascinating and I don’t know…”

As Forrest continues rehashing his Psychology professor’s lesson, I turn and look at him. Seeing him there, his words full of passion but his eyes full of shadows, I can’t help but think about how he has changed from the little boy he once was. Back then his eyes were full of laughter; he was always talking about Jesus and Church. Back then he went to Sunday school. Now he goes to college. Now he talks of science and progress, the joy of discovery and quaintness of religion. He’s a smart kid, and I’m proud of him. But I still wish he’d turned out…less like me.

Coming out of my reverie, I hear Forrest say, “Hey, by the way, I got some of that frozen lasagna stuff you like so much. Want me to put it in the oven for you? I’ve got to head out in a sec for my night job.”

I turn again to stare out the window. “Thanks Son, but no. I’m not hungry.

“C’mon. You gotta eat so you can keep your strength up!”

I pause for a second, still staring out the window. “No, Forrest. It won’t do me any good….I don’t think I’m likely to ever eat again.”

His hand on the refrigerator handle, Forest freezes. “Dad. No. You were only diagnosed a few weeks ago. It’s not your time. You’ve got a long way to go yet.”

“I’m not ready to go any more than you are ready to see me leave, but I can’t stop it, Forrest. I can’t and no one else can either.”

Slowly pushing the fridge door shut, Forrest walks over and sits down heavily on a plastic folding chair by my bed. Silence reigns for a few pregnant moments.

Staring at the ceiling, I break the silence with a heavy sigh. “Forrest…I’m not ready. I’m not ready, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be. I wish I could live my whole life over…an’ do it better this time.” I break off, out of words and out of strength.

I look over at Forrest and see that his eyes are glistening. Suddenly, he clenches his fists. “Do not!” he says, then pauses.

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

I know these words – words I memorized long ago. At that time they seemed insignificant, unimportant. Now, as I hear them again, I am mesmerized. He continues.

“Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Yes – Yes, if only my words had done something. If only they had meant something. If only they had forked lightning!

“Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

All I have ever done is foolishness. Fruitless! Totally fruitless! Why did I ever do anything at all?

“Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Delights. I had so much fun with my life. Now those years nauseate my heart.

“Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Even now! Even now, feeble though I am, I could do things. I could live another life. I could have joy!

Forrest pauses, and when he speaks again, his voice is full of passionate intensity.

“And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

All is quiet in my little apartment – but from outside comes the steady thumping of the one I cannot face as he comes nearer, nearer. My mind is full, so full that I feel I cannot breathe. No, I will not go gentle. I will fight. I will rage.

Then, he enters.

The room seems to darken as his shadowy form slides swiftly through the door. I turn to Forrest, but he is staring out the window, oblivious.

Death approaches, winnowing fork in hand. He passes my little kitchen area; then the little table in the center of the room. I feel my heart slow as he comes on, and my eyelids grow heavy.

But No. No! I will not go gentle! I snap open my eyes and frantically – if you can call my sluggish movements that – search for something to throw. Pulling open my bed stand drawer, I pull out socks and underwear along with some old USB cords and Twix bars. I toss these at the oncoming figure, but they fall to the carpet and he comes on with unperturbed pace.

At the bottom of the drawer, I find my old Bible, and hesitate, but only for a second. I pitch it at Death with every fiber in my wretched body.

But what’s this? As my Bible flies through the air, a folded sheet of paper falls out and lands next to me on the bed. It is creased and yellowed. I pick it up and unfold it. Oh. An old crayon drawing by Forrest. Cute. I begin to toss the drawing away, but some inner urge makes me take a second glance.

The drawing is of a little grassy hill with a hole cut out of the side – a tomb. A large circular stone lies on the ground, as if blasted away from the entrance of the tomb by dynamite. I stare. Suddenly, a strange feeling washes over me. I suddenly feel that…nothing matters anymore. Nothing matters…and yet everything matters! Both at the same time!

I look up to see Death almost upon me. Turning, I shove the drawing into Forrest’s hands. He looks down at it with confusion.

 “No Forrest. I will not rage.” I whisper, “Remember, Forrest. Remember!”

Suddenly, another poem comes to my mind – one older and deeper than the one Forrest had recited. As Death draws closer, I allow my head to fall back on the pillow and my eyes squeeze shut.

When they reopen, I see the horrid face of Death looming, gloating in triumph at my demise. He raises his winnowing fork, ready to bring it down on my neck. Fear stabs my heart for a moment, but as the words of the old poem float in my memory, a peace that passes understanding floods every part of my being. “Death!” I whisper the word, but it seems to come out as a loud cry.

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

Death’s eyes flash and he steps back. Pushing myself up by my elbows, I attempt to sit up.

“For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.”

Wobbling, I stand up and turn to face the one whom I thought I could never face. I startle. Whereas he had seemed a Goliath from my bed, he now seems a dwarf three feet tall. I take a step forward.

“From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?”

Out of breath but standing tall, I stare down at Death. Still hideous, he no longer seems a threat. Trembling with rage, he raises his fork and leaps for my throat.

“One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more;”

As I feel the fork slice through my neck, I whisper the final words:

“Death, thou shalt die.”

And even as my vision blurs, I can almost swear I see Death doubling over, a double-edged sword protruding from his back, its cross-guard up to his chest.

I cast a final glance over my shoulder. There sits Forrest, crying at my bed side with the old drawing of the tomb in his hand. I whisper, “Goodbye Forrest,” but he does not look up.

My strength finally fails, and I crumple to the floor. I know that everything is ok, and if Forrest remembers, everything will be ok for him too.

Daycare Injury? Find Out How to Get Compensation

Daycares can be dangerous. 

Take a recent case of mine for example. I was hired by a young mother whose 2-year-old daughter had suffered a serious injury while in daycare. The little girl was playing on the floor in a class of 23 other children overseen by two teachers. While the teachers were preoccupied with directing the children from breakfast to playtime, a much larger child got too rambunctious and fell on the little girl’s left leg. 

The outcome? My client’s little girl went to the hospital with a fractured tibia. 

Like I said, daycares can be dangerous. 

Check out this recent article I ghostwrote for the legal blog

What Parents Should Know About Toy-Related Deaths and Serious Injuries

Trouble in Toyland is an annual exposé of dangerous toys released by U. S PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund. For thirty-four years, the consumer watchdog group has identified toys on the market which it deems unsafe, sparking over a hundred and fifty recalls of such toys and providing parents with the information they need to protect their children from hazardous playthings.

Despite the successes of the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, many hazardous toys are still being sold and passed into the hands of our children. What legal options do parents have if their child has been injured by one of these toys?

Check out this recent article I edited and rewrote for the legal blog