by Max Barry

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by The Not Kenneth Branagh of Western Fardelshufflestein. . 2 reads.

A Rhapsody of Words Part 2


He’s thirsty. His head hurts. He’s tired. He’s scared. He’s in a big white room in a hospital gown and there are needles inside him. They poked his arms several times to give him more needles. ‘Tis medicine, they told him. He’s having an operation. He’s getting new kidneys and part of Wilhelm’s liver. The kidneys are not from Wilhelm. He does not know who they are from, but the person would have to have died for him to get new kidneys.

His arm itches. There are too many things in the way for him to scratch it, and his arms don’t move so much anymore. Everything just hurts. He’s in pain when he’s awake and when he sleeps. Every time he breathes, his chest hurts. His belly aches and keeps him from eating anything, makes him not hungry. And his head always, always hurts, and ‘twill not get better after the operation, because doctors cannot make his head all better.

“Allie, darling. Look at me, Allie. Come on.” Marie holds his right hand, and it feels good. He loves it when she holds his hand. Knowing she’s here makes his head hurt less.

He’s thirsty. His head hurts. He’s tired. He’s scared.

When they took him here, they put him in a bed with wheels. And they drove him here in an ambulance whilst Marie held his hand. She’s holding his hand again one last time before he has to go. He should tell her he loves her. He might not come out. He might die.

He wonders if Marie will ever forgive him.

4:56 pm

On account of Allie’s fragile condition, they rode to the hospital via ambulance. His being on constant dialysis alone necessitated special transport, and what with how weak he’s gotten, she had no faith in her ability to handle him.

She’d alerted Ophelia and their children immediately upon finishing the phone call and informed Wilhelm promptly thereafter. A mass text was sent to family members and their closest friends along with a promise to provide updates when available. Amidst the ecstatic cheers, the all-caps replies and tenuous hope, was anxiety, a shroud that clung to her and held fast, the prospect of anything and everything falling apart.
Now he’s here, almost ready to be prepped for surgery, his life yet again contingent upon doctors and tubes. Being in the hospital almost sent her into a frenzy as the whitewashed halls and the sight of him hooked up to various beeping implements has trigged a flood of memories, all negative, all too horrific to dwell upon. She recalls how he’d lain in the ICU, comatose and septic, a raging infection taking over his body; the white coats towering over her as they delivered the results of his brain scans, his liver biopsy; the moment he’d lost his balance and fallen backward, just beyond her reach, his head smacking against the floor with a loud thud--.
This is it. She has a minute left with him, less. This could be the very last time she sees him alive.

“Allie, darling. Look at me, Allie. Come on.”

He doesn’t look at her. His hand is limp in hers, and he doesn’t look at her.

“Allie, please.”

His eyes shift the tiniest bit toward her. She takes a mental picture of them, preserves this moment within her mind, of his placid countenance still warmed with life. Behind those eyes is the boy she first fell in love with, the awkward, friendly boy at the café who just so happened to be a prince. Joyful, friendly, the entire world laid out for him. Hopeful was a word that perfectly encapsulated him.

“I will always love thee. No matter what happens, thou wilt be okay, and I will always love thee. Just trust in God, and everything will be okay.” One final time, she strokes his hair. “Thou art a wonderful soul, Allie. Thou art beloved. And thou art forgiven millions of times over.” Her eyes well up against her will. How dare she cry; she must behold his face, must soak in this precious moment with him. Must peer into his soul one more time. “Everything will be okay.” She leans closely enough to feel the heat of his breath as she kisses him, and then she gives his hand a final squeeze, gazes into those incredible blue eyes. Gingerly, regrettably, she retracts her hand, and she steps back so he can be whisked away, his hand still outstretched and cupped slightly as though she had never let go.

The room blurs as the medical staff wheel him and his machines toward the operating room. The initial preparatory stage is complete. He tilts his head a bit so he can see her until he’s too far away, retreating into the distance, and then the doors of the surgical wing swing shut behind him and block him from her sight.


Wilhelm feels his lids grow heavy, feels his surroundings dim into distant white noise. So this is how ‘t feels on the precipice of death. He is tranquil about it now, but this is how Allie has been for months. Supine, needles in his arms, head foggy, weightless, floating, on the verge of losing consciousness, Allie somewhere near him.

If anything happens to him, I shall be there. I shall be with him. If anything happens to me….

He is too drained to finish that thought. Fuzzy, tired, his eyelids prepared to shut for what might be forever. He should force out a phrase to go down as his final words, but yet again his voice fails him.