Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #63

Wish Trip
by February Grace

Hayden’s small body conforms to my own as I fumble with the lock. The door releases, revealing a room too fancy for someone like me.

I’m a man who works with his hands, every single day. Not the kind who belongs at a hotel where they turn down the blankets and leave chocolates on top of the pillows.

Overheated, exhausted, I fight for the last few steps. It is my strength alone we depend on.

“I’m not tired,” he mumbles. I wish he’d just stayed asleep. Jostled back to awareness as we bumped down the steps of an over-packed Disney bus, I knew he’d fight sleep now. His thin, pale arms dangle around my neck, sticking to sunburnt skin.

“Tomorrow is another day.”

He exhales a long, slow sigh. His head, too heavy for his skinny, rag-doll neck, drops back onto my shoulder. His fading eyes disappear beneath the brim of a tricorn pirate hat.

I hope that he will remember this day of dreams and happier things. No doctors. No hospitals. Just us.

I hope that I will too.

I set him down on crisp, fresh sheets. Tiny fingers lose hold of a shopping bag. Factory made plastic gems-- his favorite souvenir-- fall one by one, raining artificial color in dim illumination across the carpet.

“My treasure!”

“I’ll keep it safe for you.” Toxic tears and drops of sweat congeal and catch fire. They burn my eyes, age my face, and obscure my grieving vision. “I promise.”


Oddyoddyo13 said...

Cute! So sad though. Seems like he's struggling a lot-I wonder who exactly was in the hospital....?

February Grace said...

Thank you for the comment Oddyoddyo13- I wonder if I should answer that question right away? :) This is all a new experience for me!

I wonder if anyone else has any ideas about that before I answer...a hint, the answer is in the title- and it is a sad answer.

Before I attempt to make any more sense than that, I need coffee!

I am so excited to see my story among the others here, they are all so excellent.

Precie said...

I get it, February---this might be a cultural thing since there are participants from all over the world. For me, it's very clear---the child, who is terminally ill, is experiencing his dream vacation, a la the Make-a-Wish Foundation. It's a heartbreaking moment.

sea minor said...

way i read it, i'm with precie. the child is very unwell and, thankfully, has been on the day of his dreams at disneyland. i like the jewel idea as the reminder - just the sort of thing a young child would like best.
i really enjoyed it.
only one point for me is the tears and sweat 'catching fire' - i like to see such metaphors used in the 'as if they were' mode rather than this, otherwise i take them literally.
strong stuff.
sea minor

Lewis J Peters said...

Unambiguous point to the story portrayed with emotional depth.

Peter Dudley said...

This crushes me. It is so well told and so personal and poignant. Heartwarming and heartbreaking in the same breath. Great work.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I like the story, and maybe it's just me, but the descriptive passages seemed to disrupt the dialogue at times. Very good writing though.

Joni said...

Very nicely told.
My heart aches for them both.

Aerin said...

Oh, I thought it unfolded beautifully, at just the right pace. I don't think the line after "Toxic tears" is necessary but that's nitpicky. I love, love the punch of the toxic tears line, and the way the first couple of sentences set up a different expectation.

I know the exact place after Pirates of the Caribbean that you get those jewels, too.

Dottie (Tink's Place) said...

Hi February Grace

Such an emotional piece, broke my heart just a little... the pain, sadness, so little time left.


February Grace said...

Thank you, everyone, I am really quite at a loss for words now reading your very kind and gracious remarks.

Thank you is truly all I can say right now. Thank you for reading.


Laurel said...

This was heartwrenching. I have zero artistic quibbles. I just hate being this sad.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Oh my goodness!!!!!! I love this! You know I'm a mother, and this just touched me. The things that children love and hold onto. All those little things...those are what make special moments like this last, and you've capture that. This tells so much grief and pain and love all in one little slice. Wow.

Great job!

And thanks for letting me know you were up on here. I had no idea! I've had way too much going on today. ;)

Erratic Thoughts said...

Aww!Why does the kid have to be so ill *sob*
I liked it!Very emotional.Poignant n Precise :)

JaneyV said...

You wrote this so beautifully. I particularly admire your descriptions of the sleeping child. It was a truly excellent piece.

I just really really struggle with the subject matter.

February Grace said...

Again, thank you everyone for your comments and feedback, I truly do appreciate it.

Janey V, since I'm not sure what you meant about struggling with the subject matter, I want to address that just in case it somehow may have offended you.

Writing this piece has had a profound effect on me and was in no way meant to in any way be disrespectful to, make light of, or make 'entertainment value' use of the subject matter.

When I was healthier I used to do non-profit work that solely related to kids sick enough to take Wish trips- mostly children with cancer. Additionally, in many, many trips to Disney and knowing people who work there I have heard and seen many Wish trip moments myself, in person, and along with all I saw when I did the non-profit stuff, they haunted me.

This work- which was in no way premeditated- I found out about the contest very late and honestly just sat down and wrote as if on auto-pilot when I saw the picture of the gems- surprised even me because I have recently returned from a trip to WDW in which I didn't actually happen to see any Wish kids this time and I thought of all I'd seen in the past. It is truly meant to show the love I feel for the families in these unfathomable situations, a tribute to their quiet dignity and immense courage.

It was never something to be taken lightly- and the response from you all, what it's made you feel, I know it hasn't been. That truly touches my heart.

I had already decided that if by some small miracle I end up winning any of the gift cards I'll be using it to buy books for one of the hospitals I used to work with when I still could. Even if I don't I will be sending off some books soon because I miss doing it.

If you meant that it just made you sad- then I sincerely apologize for the over-explanation but feeling as strongly as I do about the subject and the fiction piece based on having seen a lot- I wanted to say that.

Thank you to anyone who is still reading these comments to the end, and who read and was effected by Wish Trip.

February Grace

bekbek said...

Made me cry. And the story, I felt, was just as clear as it needed to be, no more, no less. Beautiful.

JaneyV said...

Oh February Grace you didn't offend me in any way shape or form. All I meant was the thought of losing a child is so completely horrifying and so terrifying to me on a personal level that even the reading of these heartbreaking and often heartwarming stories puts me in a place of dread. That's the reason I struggle with the subject matter - it's such a horrifying concept I can't go there.

I only wanted to say that I thought the piece was wonderfully written but for my own selfish reasons I couldn't dwell on it. But I do fervently believe that things such as these should be written about and should be read.

I applaud every thing you've done and I truly admire all those who make the lives of terminally ill children and their families brighter and happier places. I wish I was that emotionally strong.

February Grace said...

Thank you, bekbek...

Janey, thank you too for your additional comment, it's a relief to know it didn't offend you. I can understand not dwelling on it- believe me, it's haunting me and I wrote it.

I've done so little in my life, so much less than I wish I could do, for these kids.

I join you in your admiration of those who do it every day- volunteers, doctors, nurses- especially the nurses, who are the special sort of people who work with these kids all the time.

Honestly, I wish I was that strong too.

hugs to you, and again, thank you.


PS I'm a mother myself so I understand where you're coming from...

C.Sonberg Larson said...

Heart-wrenching. A very creative use of the subject. This is really good. Your ability to convey the inner turmoil of the parent and the frailty of the child is marvelous.
Well done,

Deb Smythe said...

This felt so real and heart-wrenching, I worried it was based on a true story.

The last paragraph was killer (no pun intended). Nailed it.

Michael Morse said...

It is amazing the things we absorb, and how when on "auto-pilot" those things pour out of our subconscious. I am grateful for the ability to lose myself in the words I write, using that vehicle to sort through the emotions that without a form of release would cripple me. (I'm a firefighter/Rescue Lieutenant in Providence, RI)

I'm more grateful that other people possess the same ability, as I am continuously amazed at how profoundly their stories affect me.

Your story was fantastic. Thank you.

February Grace said...

You all just don't know what your reaction to this story means to me.

Really, it brings me to tears. Thank you.

Deb: You said you worried it was based on a true story- sadly, I think the only honest answer to that it was inspired by too many true stories even if not one specific one.

Michael: I am so glad you find solace in your writing. I have nothing but the utmost respect for firefighters/first responders- thank you so much for the job you do every day and for your very kind words- they mean so much. Keep on writing.

I'm overwhelmed. Again thank you all.

Olivia J. Herrell said...

February Grace, Wow. I knew after reading your other post and before I clicked over that I would cry reading this and I did. Basically through the whole thing.

What a gift you have. Not only to be there to give them solace but to be able to convey such deep emotion in so few words. To me this was an homage. My pirate hat is off to you for your bravery, your courage and for touching all those lives who touched yours.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

~that rebel, Olivia

J. Elis Morgan said...

This is just beautiful. :::tears:::

JR's Thumbprints said...

I've returned for a reason. First of all, what the hell was I thinking? I must've been distracted at the time. After a second go of it, the description and dialogue read very smoothly. In fact, I like your interpretation of the photograph; afterall, the most precious treasure anyone can have is the time they spend with their loved ones. Very well written.

AidanF said...

The raining of the gems captures the sadness that this piece evokes. Well-written.

Catherine Vibert said...

Ok, now I'm crying. Beautiful and well written.

February Grace said...

Thank you again to everyone who is reading (and/or came back to read again- thank you JR's Thumbprints...)

This piece really means so much to me- but I never expected such strong reactions to it. You are all so kind, thank you so much for reading and then telling me that it reached you.

There's nothing more a writer could ever possibly ask for than that.


Christine H said...

Wow, Bru, you have an awesome gift! I feel like my stuff is cookie-cutter after reading that.


Excellently done, and I wouldn't change a single word.

Erin Kane Spock said...

That was beautifully written, giving us questions then answering them just enough.
Thank you for sharing that.
I'm going to go hug my daughter now. :)