Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one and write something about it.
Simple? Maybe not.
Although this creation may seem like a darkly written memoir, it’s not. It reflects neither real events nor real feelings.
It’s simply a work of fiction designed to come up with something for the word …
I sit in my father’s hospice room. I have been there, off and on, for days, maybe weeks. After a while, it all runs together. It has been a long vigil, too long to be exact.
It is a deathwatch for an only child. My father is terminally ill, and he has decided to die. He has stopped taking his medications. He has stopped taking meals. His organs, the doctors say, are shutting down. His time will come soon, they warn or assure me.
I love my father because he is my father, but I do not really like him. Perhaps that is for the same reason.
In the dimly-lit room, I can hear his raspy breathing. In. Out. In. Out. Mesmeric. Hypnotic. I might be lulled into fitful sleep by the rhythm, were it not for the cane.
He clutches the cane in his left hand. He is slumped forward in the wheelchair, which he has stubbornly insisted serve as a substitute for a deathbed. The cane is all that stands between him and the floor.
As I fixate on the cane in this room, so I have fixated on it since I was a small boy. Made for a king, I was told. Given by a grateful sire to a peasant who had saved his king’s life by merely being in the right place at the right time. Passed on, generation to generation, from an ancestor prefixed by so many greats, the relationship is meaningless.
The cane, topped by a tarnished golden orb centered on the King of Beasts, is truly a thing of beauty. The lion’s eyes glow evil red. His fiercely snarling face is surrounded by jungle leaves.
Below the lion are alternating symbols, some sort of Franco-Prussian, fleur de lis and iron cross incarnations. All are supported by rearing serpents, as the crown gives way to rich, dark wood.
I have always wanted that cane — since the very first time I saw it. It was the ultimate objectification of manly authority. He who wielded the cane was in charge, whether administering a punishing rap to the head or an approving slap to the buttocks. I want that cane in an almost patricidal way.
My father deserves that cane. His left leg was blown off below the knee by an landmine near the end of World War II. He was an 18-year-old Army private.
He is understandably embittered. Who can blame him for lashing out more often in anger than reward with his duly inherited Cane of Authority? I must have that cane, if ever I am to become the man my father expects me to be. The cane must be mine!
I snap from my musings to refocus on my father. Silence. From my chair, I cannot ascertain if he is still breathing. Could my momentary lapse of attention have caused me to miss his passing?
I leave my seat and quietly approach my father. The cane! The cane! Could it really be mine?
Reaching his wheelchair, I grasp the object of my desire.
A sharp intake of breath! Shock! His grip on the cane tightens, displaying strength far beyond that of a dying man. One jaundiced, blood-shot eye pops opens to glare at me.
“Not yet,” he croaks.