Deep in the night: that’s when we find each other.
Right about when the coyotes back on the mountain are staring holes through the rocks in the moonlight/trying to convince themselves that they are indeed rocks and not a lost village of fat crippled rabbits hobbling out of their dreams, that’s when we meet up.
You cough and I hear the storm in your bony chest.
You moan your tiny single moan and it cuts across the mattress, half of it collapsing down on your mommy’s left ear, half of it on my right.
It’s almost too much at this point.
It seems like forever since you’ve been down and out, coughing and blowing snot, but that’s how these things roll. It seems as if I can’t even remember a time when you were smiling over at me, but it’s only been a day or so.
Little man, I want to find this thing so bad.
I want to sort it all out for you.
I want to meet it in a dark alley, between the dumpsters and the rats, and I want to fight it with my fists.
I want to stand up on some squat night hill with an old butter knife and howl into the driving wind when I feel the rockslide of your cough. You wake yourself up for the thirtieth time in three hours and I rattle sabres in my guts. Give me something to fight, I seethe through my teeth. Show your damn face, I say, like I’m talking to some rotten ghost.
But, this is how it goes. No matter how much you love a kid, the cooties will come knocking, sooner or later. It doesn’t matter how tough you are either. The flu is the flu and it’s bigger and badder than you could ever be.
It’s sad but it’s true, man.
Even if you ate all the steroids and lifted all the weights in the world and did push-ups until your bicep was a hot cannonball shoved into the sleeve of your arm, you still couldn’t win.
Because, it’s supposed to happen. Believe it or not, it’s all meant to go down just like it is.
Last night, for the first time in a couple days, my boy Henry sat up in the bed beside me and lifted himself up. It took a long second or two but he wrestled himself up, ignoring the hard-suffering camped out behind his small bones. He took a short breath, deep as he could muster. His eyes landed on the TV, on Donald Duck for a second as I watched him, hopeful for a sign.
He throttled his arms in the air, remembering the face, that quack, and then cheering on his old bud. It was like the days before the flu rode into town. I reached out and soft-noogied his baby-mullet and he turned around fast to look at me.
I smiled and he smiled back. Dark black clouds parted.
A rainbow arched across the tired mattress.
Zipadeedoodah songbirds poured out of the thick briars and flew around our heads singing and tickling our scalps with their fluttering wings.
Henry reached out and grabbed my nose and squeezed. He pulled on my face and laughed his laugh of scoundrels and I knew he was thanking me for just being there through his bad sick blues.
Here we are, Daddy, his eyes seemed to say. Here we are even closer than we were before all this illness, before all this madness.
As if that is even possible buddy, I stared into his eyes.
Well, he said, with a twist of my beak, here we are.