Mr. Andrews didn’t smack his wife hard. I told the police officer his naval academy ring made the gash. I quickly said cut. Then I rambled into how she was probably saying summer, because she was always saying summer, because she was always talking about their son’s wedding. This summer. And anyway, when you make the m sound your lips close and maybe it wasn’t his ring but bad timing that knocked her tooth through her lip. I leaned in and showed him how when you say m. The officer said, “I get it.” But not in a way that made me think he did. I added Mr. Andrews is eighty-seven and can’t get out of bed without assistance.
Mrs. Andrews kept asking the officer if her husband’s arrest was going to affect him attending their son’s wedding and the officer said he’s not being arrested while I pleaded with Mrs. Andrews to keep ice on her mouth. I lied and said a stitch might break, but I just wanted her to be quiet. I did a very good job with the stitches.
The following day Mrs. Andrews’s son visited for an hour and took measurements – neck, arm length, waist – while his father slept. I interrupted twice, to raise the backrest and adjust the humidifier.
Mrs. Andrews wore a different shade of lipstick the next three times she visited because she couldn’t decide on a color for the wedding. I told her all three times that it was best to wait for the stitches to be removed before wearing lipstick and she shook me off in a manner that reminded me of a bird bathing in a puddle. I didn’t tell her the chair was out of arms reach so she could talk all she wanted, nor that I adjusted the temperature in the room to eighty.
Everyone remained safe.
Mr. Andrews showed me his naval tattoos on my first day. He was sitting shirtless on the patio in the square of shade provided by the Sunrise Senior Living sign. He took the time to describe his tattoos, which is a good thing, because they had devolved into ironic army green smudges. It wouldn’t have made any sense when he offered to make the eagle fly and the girl dance. Still, I told him that might be a little much. I introduced myself, “I’m Sharon, the new head nurse.”
All through spring, every time I wheeled him outside, he removed his shirt then raised his left arm and made a muscle. But the girl had trouble showing any spunk. A lifetime of dancing had taken its toll. As for the eagle, he confessed he had to save his strength. He only flapped the wings for visitors.
Then there was the smacking incident and the afternoon his wife and son brought the suit. They told him he was not wearing his naval uniform. Out of the question. They laid the suit on top of him and demanded him not to move.
After that he kept his shirt on. Never mentioned the dancing girl or eagle again.
Mrs. Andrews told me it’s just like him to refuse to eat. Then she asked if she would be able to try different wheelchair models before the wedding because she had difficulty maneuvering the current one; “It would be quite embarrassing if we were to get stuck during the actual ceremony.” I told her we couldn’t and she asked if it’s possible to give her husband medication to keep him awake because if he were to fall asleep, well, with his snoring – I said no again and she pursed her lips which made the red-red lipstick – which she told me was the color she had finally decided upon, and which I reminded her she shouldn’t be wearing – bleed into the stitches.
Mrs. Andrews stayed for three hours the day her husband died. She spoke to his deceased body for two. But I didn’t say anything. I placed my hand on her shoulder and asked if she wanted me to call her son. She shook her head; “It’s just like him to ruin everything, but at least I can use the suit.” That’s when I offered to take the stitches out. I lied and said it would be fine. But I’m hoping it holds until the day of the wedding. If she’s a wedding crier, the strange way lips contort, the wound will tear and bleed and the ceremony will be perfect.
Roger D’Agostin is a writer living in Connecticut. His most recent work has appeared in FRiGG, jmww, and Passengers Journal. He is currently working on a book of short stories.