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Caterina Kenworthy

It was not his choice to be there. He hadn’t even been asked, which he felt was completely unjust, seeing as the events of the following hours would most likely change his life forever. As he sat down on the tacky, blue cushioned chair, he felt the unimpressive number of eyes in the room follow him. Whom did he expect to show up? He didn’t even know where his mother was, and what would she care, anyways?

There was rack of magazines that sat limply next to him. The magazines slouched off the narrow shelves, drooping and withered. Their pages were exhausted, now practically useless. He felt he had more in common with the magazines than any one else in the room. There was a Spanish woman four seats away who clutched a rosary and rocked back and forth, chanting. The tears streamed down her cheeks as if no one was watching, and her murmurs sounded as if she believed someone could really hear her. There was a little girl in the red dress with a bow in her hair who sat at the table with a purple crayon. She drew a dog with a spindly face and crooked tail. The dog was pathetic.

Dogs are never purple, He thought. Perhaps if there had been a close friend or relative sitting next to him or maybe even a casual acquaintance, he would have spoken this cynical remark aloud. He glanced at the seat to his left. There was no one sitting there, no one with which to share the cheap humor of a sarcastic comment. The blue cushion looked back at him, the void of emptiness that stared back at him was stronger than he. Intimidated, he looked away.

The chair beneath him screeched as he slowly twisted his legs on the floor, rocking the chair back and forth. The chair was not his friend. This much had already been decided. The chair was where he would be located as the words were spoken, the ones that would define the majority of his teenage life, and the integrity of his adult life.

Oh wait, that was a mistake. The chair would be behind him, waiting like dark jaws to catch him when he fell. Not the kind of catching that a mother's arms do when her child trips on the street. The kind that snatches you into its grasp and never lets go, leading to often-painful experiences. More like a grandmother.

He heard them before he saw them, and he knew that this was old, tried, and tested business. Another life shattered, another heart splintering, more tears, more anguish, more loss. They squeaked, like the chair beneath him and he began to think that the trend was no coincidence, but an omen. He could not decide whether to be offended by it, or to embrace it. Was this unlikely similarity comforting or taunting?

        Their faces were blank, like a piece of paper before ink is pressed into the bright pulp.

"Mr. Quinn?"

How could one lack emotion so totally? How could someone trapped in such a devastating profession not understand the pain they were inflicting?

Surely, they had experienced it to, before repetition had made them such stones. "Yes?" The voice was not his own. It squeaked. He could never before remember a time when he himself had squeaked. In fact, as he sat there, about to stand and face the change, he was unable to recall any squeaks before this day in his lifetime. The bicycle he rode religiously every day of his childhood never squeaked. Or perhaps he was so in love with the bicycle that the squeaks never got through to him. They never reached his virgin ears. Or maybe they did and his ears turned the sound away. He didn't want to soil the godly image the bike held, and so in order to protect himself, he rejected the sound from ever entering his being.

        "I'm so sorry" the Doctor said. He could have been saying that it would be rainy on Thursday. You aren't, really, he thought. It was more causal a thought than he believed was possible at this time. He knew that while he sat on the cushioned chair, ready to rise and shake the man's hand, or perhaps give him a gentle slap on the back, that the doctor before him was not sorry.

        Or maybe he was. But not for his sake. This man was sorry because as he lay down to sleep tonight, he would know that he was the villain. He was the taker of lives. He was the most professional grim reaper there was. Incased in a white bubble of papery fabric, a sad imitation of what happiness might look like. Professionalism was the last thing he needed. He needed choking breaths on the floor beside him, to match his own.

        "We did everything we could" They didn't he thought, once again, a casual snide remark. Was his heart betraying him? Like all those book and movies with complex psychology, that you thought would never happen to you. The ones written by women with short hair that had been dyed too many times, and who were holding books against their chests, dressed in lab coats. Why are they always dressed in lab coats? They shouldn't be even qualified as medical doctors, after all they never write about facts. It's  all theories and ideas… and those lab coats….why am I thinking about lab coats? I'm about to be told that my father is dead, I pretty much already have been told that my father is dead and all I can think about goddamn fucking lab coats.

He looked up the doctor. He was waiting, his hands limp at his sides, fingers apart.  Two white bellied fish on the hooks of his wrists.  The doctor's forehead had beads of sweat across it, laundry hung up to dry.

The boy stood up, clenching his suede jacket between his hands.         "Thank you," he said. He skirted around the doctors, making a wide berth. They had touched his fathers dying and then dead body, even if through plastic gloves. He continued on his way, out of the glass door where he could see the lights of the cars exiting and entering the parking lot. He didn't expect them to let him go. "Sir, we need you to fill out some forms, you can't leave quite yet. We know it's hard and we hate to ask you for it just now, but it is mandatory procedure."

He turned, almost smiling with an incredulous look on his face. He put on his jacket and smoothed out the creases on his jeans with his shaking hands. "No," he said, not looking at them. "I don't think I can do that right now." He chuckled softly as the tears began to spill. He turned and walked out of the hospital, away from the sterile, white halls and shuffling slippered feet. He stepped into the cool night air and cupped his hands while he lit a cigarette. He took a long, deep drag. He held the smoke. His father was dead. The only person who had ever cared about him.  He blew the smoke out into the cold air and watched it disappear, just as he soon would.

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