by James Durston
She lifts his head—hospital pillows are always so damn thin—and kisses him, gently, on the lips. His papery skin sticks.
‘There, there,’ she whispers. ‘Not long now.’
She repositions a few hairs that are drifting off his scalp like gossamer. Wipes the spittle from his chin.
Their painting is on the wall, sighing with memories. Rome … a buffeting lace curtain in the window … fencing with brushes ...
But the memories stopped twenty years ago.
She pulls the contract from under his arm. His signature is there. Good.
She moves to the door, opens it, checks left and right, closes it, locks it.
She slides a paper cone from the holder. It catches and tears. ‘Oh, no.’
She drops the damaged cone into the bin. Licks her fingers and pulls at another. It slips out with a hiss. She presses down on the blue plastic tap—the water sounds like rain—Italian rain—hitting a canvas.
She takes the syringe from her pocket and plunges the contents into the water.
She pulls the creases from his blue blanket. Strokes away the wrinkles. Straightens his socks. Turns the pages of the magazine to tomorrow’s TV schedule.
She sits on the white plastic chair near his head. Looks at him. Grips his hand. It’s like a small cotton bag of iron bolts.
‘Not long now, love.’
She tips the contents of the cone into her mouth and swallows.