It was she who called them. He never wanted to be a drag. Nine twenty-six. Sirens were closing in, disturbing the imposing silence of the night. He is prepared. She hardly is. He understands, it is the final hour... the end of his trail... no more breadcrumbs. She still wants him to read her his stories. Nine twenty-seven. Sirens were closing in, echoing in the darkness and escaping its grasp. No more promises. No more miles to walk. This is it. She goes down on her knees and prays, though she does not quite know what she is praying for. Nine twenty-eight. Sirens were closing in, screaming and screeching, muffling other sounds. Two minutes to go. Seconds drag as he is departing. Violins playing, though no tune can be heard. She opens the door as her sobs go into a crescendo. Nine twenty-nine. Sirens closing in, still nowhere to be seen. He is not struggling the strangling he feels, he lets the void in as air rejects his lungs' invitation. Her salty cheeks tremble as her heart does the same in fear and dread... dread of what will most certainly happen. Nine thirty.
“Almost nine thirty,” said a voice.
“Thank you,” responds another voice. This particular voice belonged to a man who had a watch. He needn't ask for the time, but was obsessed with it. Actually, 'thank you' was not the first response that came to his mind, as 'almost' was rather ambiguous and oblique for his taste and the exact hour was nine twenty-six. He kept on walking. Other than the ambulance hurrying down the street, this was just another night. Nine twenty-seven. He glimpsed at his watch. He did not quite know why he liked watching it so much. He enjoyed looking how the fearless seconds hand always moved swiftly and the way the huge hours hand painfully dragged itself at an alarming slow rate, but most of all he enjoyed the middle hand... the minutes one. Nine twenty-eight. That glorious minutes hand marked yet another minute. Impressive. That hand, never too slow and never too fast, reaching another marquee in sixty heartbeats. Nine twenty-nine. Time was always fast, never stopping or lending a hand. Down the street, at last, his house was there... and an ambulance was at the front door. He hurried along the path. Nine thirty.
“Another night,” said a General Hospital nurse.
“It would certainly seem so,” answered doctor Hobbes. He was a rather curious man, as he spent most of his time reading about various subjects and talking to all kinds of people. His wife was a doctor too, and she worked in the General Hospital also. Lately, he was reading quite a lot about fatherhood. His wife was not pregnant. While both reading and chitchatting, doctor Hobbes gazed upon a wall. Both solemnly and quietly, the clock of the waiting room stood. Nine twenty-six. Little more than a half-hour and his shift would end. He was hardly desperate about leaving the hospital though way back he only lived for quitting work and going home. He never went home alone, not since he got married anyway. Nine twenty-seven. Evidently then, the sudden change of perception and perspective of doctor Hobbes regarding his life and modus operandi relied on his wife. They loved each other very much and seldom had feuds or held grudges against each other. Nine twenty-eight. Sighing, doctor Hobbes watched the clock one more time. His concentration now laid afar from him. He could not help but think of the pressing matters troubling his heart, mind and soul. He wanted a child. He was sure his wife wanted a child as well, but she had made it very clear she was not up to the task. Nine twenty-nine. His first name was Robert. He tried to focus one more time. Futile. And so, Robert Hobbes merely stood there. He was not counting the clock's ticks anymore. Nine thirty.
Moving very fast, the paramedics filled the gurney with Mr. Baxter's body. Gregory Baxter was a fiction writer. Three years, three months and five days ago, Gregory had a heart attack. He was seventy-nine years old at that time. It was because of his daughter that this eighty-two year old was being driven to the General Hospital. Melinda Baxter was a twenty-three year old loving child. Mr. Baxter and his wife craved for a girl -or boy- of their own and did have Melinda at a late age, but the latter was a perfectly normal, healthy and beautiful baby that grew into a perfectly normal, healthy and beautiful woman. Gregory Baxter loved both his wife and daughter, so hated seeing them distanced and falling away from each other. The struggle between the women on Mr. Baxter's life intensified by the hour. Amidst his shortness of breath, a thought rushed through his brain... he hoped his actual condition might subdue such a pathetic fight, a confrontation that really led nowhere, and inject new life into that mother-daughter relationship. Gregory Baxter was a good fiction writer.
“What's going on?” asked anxiously Mr. Hawthorne. His breath was clinging to the air at hand; his sight was searching the room in an erratic fashion.
“Your wife is going into labour,” said one of the two paramedics that were helping a woman to a gurney.
“This is it,” said the woman as she hopped on top of the white vehicle. Ms. Hawthorne, maiden name Jennifer James. Almost nine months to the spot. Exactly eight months and twenty-eight days, “the day we were looking forward to.”
“Already... oh... I don't know if I am ready,” John Hawthorne spoke with great difficulty. His heart was still racing, but not from running towards his house. He was very emotional and was actually a little bit frightened.
“We will be fine my dear,” said Jennifer in the most convincing tone she could have spoken in.
“Let's get going,” said the second paramedic, “you can ride with us in the ambulance.”
And so, two couples went away into the night, swooshing across the asphalt jungle and towards the white tower, the General Hospital. It was nine thirty-eight... exactly.
“Can you tell me your name sir?” a routine question doctor Hobbes had asked easily a thousand times.
“His name is Gregory Baxter,” said Melinda at the verge of tears.
“And you are?” asked Robert Hobbes.
“I'm his daughter.”
“He... just couldn't breath anymore... is he going to be all right?”
“Let us work. You can wait over there.” Robert looked at a nurse who promptly made her move.
A nurse grabbed Melinda Baxter by the arm and conduced her to the waiting room and then returned to the room where the writer was being treated. Melinda looked at a clock in the wall. She sat on a chair, not because she wanted to, but because her legs shut off. Seconds did not move for her. It has nine forty-three.
Contractions grew stronger and stronger. At last, the gurney was drove through various hospital floors, reaching the maternity ward. Mr. and Ms. Hawthorne entered a room, followed instantly by doctor Cooper.
“Hi, I'm doctor Cooper and am going to help you through the labour.”
“I'm John... and this is my wife Jennifer…” He was thinking only about his wife and the child she was bearing, mumbling words between what he thought were coherent phrases and responses.
“Don't worry about a thing,” said the doctor, sensing the disturbed manner of Mr. Hawthorne, and then proceeded to prepare Jennifer for the labour.
Indeed tough times bring people together. Ms. Helen Baxter held Melinda in her arms, both sitting on a pair of adjacent chairs in the General Hospital's waiting room. Her daughter's crying, compelling, had brought forward a truce. Doctor Hobbes entered the room.
“Yes,” answered Helen expectantly and yet unsure.
“Your husband suffered a heart attack,” said the doctor as he crouched between the two women, “we were able to make his heart beat again, but his brain was deprived of oxygen for almost four minutes. We had to put a tube down his throat to help him breath and quite frankly, there is a big chance he may not be able to breath by himself again. I'm sorry.”
“Oh my God.” The words came out even before Melinda reasoned them and almost before doctor Hobbes could finish his sentence. “Can we see him?”
“He is unconscious, heavily sedated, but you may go into his room if you want to. Later, as his condition normalizes, we will transfer him to the ICU.”
“Push! We're almost there, now push!”
The first cry for air of baby Hawthorne echoed not only in the room but also in the entire hospital. The miracle of life -of his life -, embodied in that potent cry, filled the hearts of his parents. Other hearts were filled with a sense of loving and reassurance as well.
Both of them sobbing, Helen and Melinda stood before Gregory's bed. His face looked calm, and bore a slight smile. It's not that he planned this, although he could have written it. This fortuitous scene jump-started a car on the road to recovery. The past behind both was forgot, their sins cleansed and their minds set only on the man in bed. The beep of the monitor turned into a linear sound... lifeless. He had no regrets. He lived his life fully the way he wanted to live it and, most importantly, always telling the two quintessential girls of his life that he loved them very much. He was fortunate, and that fortune was cast upon not only the two girls beside him, but also on a curious man watching the scene from the room's threshold. These three characters could have easily been identified as a new single persona now, eyes open and thinking differently... breathing a new air and living a new life. Doctor Hobbes did not want but craved to go home now. He never went home alone, not since he got married anyway.
“Thank you very much,” said Mr. Hawthorne, shaking the doctor’s hand effusively.
“Don't worry about it, and congratulations!” said doctor Cooper. Time stopped for a moment as if only to capture the moment: the husband, the wife and the newborn being watched by the doctor that helped through the process. It then regained its pace. “Could you please tell me what time is it?” asked the doctor after discovering Mr. Hawthorne’s watch.
“Almost ten forty-five,” answered John, not paying much attention to any of the hands on his watch anymore, but feeling the most alive in his life, renewed and excited.
“Thank you.” The doctor’s shift had ended almost forty-five minutes ago. Going home was the next step.
“How was your day?” asked Robert to doctor Cooper as they met at the hospital’s main entrance.
“It was fine.” Both stopped walking.
Neither talked for a moment. They were just looking at each other, feeling as if something had changed.
“Listen,” doctor Cooper continued, “I... I think I am ready...”
Doctor Hobbes smiled as he grabbed his wife's hand. Words needed not be spoken and they resumed their journey home. It was the dawn of a new age, a new time, a new way of thinking and feeling. And maybe, just maybe, doctor Lucy Cooper would agree to become doctor Lucy Hobbes now.
Short Story. April, 2009.