In this dimly lit room, she can see that very little about the hospital has changed in 15 years. Sterile white plaster walls. Brown linoleum floors. Scents of antiseptic and soap. The memory she draws upon is from the last time she was here. A happier occasion. The birth of her son. This time, though, she is here to be with him while he dies. The doctor has confirmed her worst fear. There is nothing more to be done.
This son of hers, Jack, lays motionless on a narrow bed. In an attempt to make his few remaining hours more comfortable, he has been covered with a blanket, a damp cloth placed on his forehead. Traces of blood at the corners of his mouth are the only visible sign of the accident, almost letting her believe that her son is not so terribly broken after all. She remembers the night he was born. A perfect little boy. But still, a mixed blessing. Sons in this family grow up to be farmers, and if there is one certainty in farming, it is that nothing is ever certain.
The boy’s father is not at the hospital, as one would expect. The cut hay is ready to be baled, and rain is forecasted. Hanging in the balance is the livelihood that one thousand acres of sweet timothy will provide. But as he hurries to bale row after row, anguish consumes him. Farming is a gamble. Rain. Insects. Fire. Drought. The risk of serious injury. Still, he should have realized that his boy was too inexperienced to drive a tractor so close to the irrigation ditch. So close that a wheel happened to catch the edge of the slope, and the tractor rolled, crushing his son beneath its iron bulk.
Around two a.m. she loses her fight with exhaustion and nods off, but is roused a few hours later by an insistent Wake up Elsie! She is alert in an instant, heart pounding. Her eyes, full of questions, seek answers from the owner of the voice. Her husband. Tears are streaming down his face.
Her tone is shrill. His words spill out, cracked with emotion.
It’s ok , Elsie! Look! Jack’s conscious! The doc thinks he’s going to make it!
It takes a moment for her disbelief to turn to relief, and then, utter joy, and she rushes to cradle her son, her boy, her baby, in her arms.
For now, Henry decides, the news about the rain can wait.
This week’s prompt is to write a 350 word piece in which a local or regional item or industry plays a role.
Hay farming plays a huge part in the economy of my town, Ellensburg, Washington. What I’ve written here is a fictionalized version of real events that happened to the husband of a friend of mine. Critically injured in a tractor roll over at the age of 15, he was left in a hospital corridor to die, but when it was discovered that he was still alive the next day, he finally received care.
The top photo is of the old Ellensburg hospital, built in 1919.