NikolHasler.com is currently looking for your works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, artwork and photography, hey, whatever, send a video, on the theme of “Stuck In Bed”. Please send these along with a bio and photo to nikolhasler at gmail dot com. Here is a submission from Mike Dalton.
It’s been so long now; I can’t even remember what year it was. I do recall that I was already living with
my wife so that must mean it was sometime in the past 40 or maybe 50 something years. I know this
because she regularly reminds me of things like what my name is, how many children we have, what
their names are, how long we’ve been married and the fact that I am no longer legally able to drive a
She doesn’t do these things to hurt me. I know I’m old… and a little more than absentminded. She
apparently thinks I don’t hear so good either, ‘cuz I’ve overheard her talking on the phone to God knows
who. She told ‘em she thinks I have some form of dementia or Alzheimer’s… and maybe she’s right. All
I know is that the times (like now) when things are sharp and clear in my mind, seem to be getting fewer
and further between. I’m just thankful I can remember how she took care of me all those years ago, but
that’s actually putting the cart before the horse.
Like most newlyweds and young couples of the day, we were struggling to makes ends meet. We’d
done what everyone else had done and got married, bought a little house and started a family. We even
had a picket fence, but it wasn’t white. It was just plain, untreated wood… or as my brother used to call
it, “naked as a jaybird”. All it was, was I hadn’t gotten around to painting it yet. Of course then I got
hurt, and that changed everything.
Technically, I suppose I shouldn’t call it an accident. It wasn’t really that at all. What it boiled down to
was that I was in a hurry and I wasn’t paying any attention to what I was doing. In my haste to get done
for the day, or get home, or whatever the reason was, I lifted… well, attempted to lift anyway, one too
many cases of soda water… or pop, or whatever the young people call it today. Looking back, I kind of
chuckle when I think about it… brought down by a cool, refreshing treat. Imagine that.
As I recall, there was a popping feeling right above my hips. The next sensation was of all the air rushing
from my lungs. I don’t really recall dropping to the floor, but I do remember seeing the panicked
expressions on the faces of the shoppers at the A & P. To hear one of the customers later recount the
tale, guess I must have looked like a sack of potatoes falling, or getting thrown off the back of a truck.
At any rate, I blacked out… or the dementia is kicking in, because the next thing I can remember is that I
was lying in my bed at home… staring at the ceiling.
Back then, as you can probably imagine, medicine wasn’t even close to what it is these days. There
wasn’t such a thing as Chiropractors or M.R.I., and taking X-rays seemed to be pointless. They’d shot me
up with enough morphine to kill a horse, but I could still move my feet and wiggle my toes so they knew
I wasn’t paralyzed. Doc Robertson or Robinson… I forget now, didn’t seem to have the foggiest notion
of what had actually happened. He said he figured I’d most likely either severely pulled or torn one of
the major muscles in my back, or it was all just a figment of my imagination. Either way, it was decided
for me that the best course of action would be to have me get some rest… which meant nothing more
than lay around… and see if whatever the injury was, would somehow heal itself.
For almost a year I was stuck in that damned bed. Every time I’d try and get up I’d be racked with such
pain that it would bring tears to my eyes, and I’d fall back onto the mattress, sobbing. I’d quit taking the
morphine shots because I couldn’t stand the feeling of feeling absolutely nothing. I’d tried to will myself
through the pain, and I’d had glimpses of success, but the end result of whatever I’d tried… was that I’d
still wind up staring at the same white ceiling. She was an angel of mercy throughout. Not only did she
manage to take care of me, but she also took on a job as a bookkeeper at the local feed mill (which she
could do mostly at home) then a part time job at A & P a couple of nights a week. I think she did it not
only so we’d be able to stay current on our bills, but probably to get out of the house once in awhile.
The arrangement worked for a little while, but at some point, through a cloud of depression and guilt,
I’d confided to my wife that I felt as though I’d be worth more to her dead than the present condition
I was in… and I begged her to help me end my miserable life. I’d rehearsed this speech over and over
in my head and I was convinced that death was the only way out. I told her that if she truly loved
me… she’d set me free, therefore setting herself free. She’d be able to take the kids and move on to
someone better… someone who could take care of her the way I felt she deserved to be taken care of.
As I said, the speech sounded good in my head.
My impassioned plea was met with the last thing I expected. Stone cold silence. Unbearably long stone
cold silence. The look in her eyes was one that I’ve not seen since, nor do I care to. Her pretty brown
eyes turned black with a mixture of what I think was probably shock… and pure, unadulterated rage.
Her body started to tremble, and try as she might; she was finally no longer able to contain herself.
“How dare you”, she blurted out. “How dare you… and damn you!”
Instantly I knew I’d crossed over some previously unknown and unspoken line. She got up and quickly
exited the room, slamming the door behind her. The muffled footsteps went down the hall then out
the back door which, as I recall, was slammed with greater force than the previous door. Finally, the
muffled car door slam, the starting of the motor… and the squealing of rubber on concrete as she sped
down the driveway. As the sound of the old Buick speeding away trailed off, it began to dawn on me
that I was now completely and utterly alone.
At first, I was pretty miffed. Clearly she’d lost her mind. Couldn’t she see that all I wanted was to be
free from the pain… the stress… the guilt… the stupid bed? I would rather have spent eternity in a cold
black hole than one more awful minute in that bed, which now felt like a prison cell. I explained this
to her. Did she not listen? Did she not care? Sure we promised one another we’d grow old together,
but that was before. How could she abandon me now… and how could she possibly be so selfish? The
thought trailed off and “selfish” echoed through my head as if it had been yelled across a canyon.
The daylight turned to twilight then to night. She hadn’t come back. It was right after breakfast that
we’d had our blowout and I’d been alone since. As the hours passed I’d tried, nearly successfully I might
add, to get to the telephone down the hall, in the kitchen. On the first attempt, I’d made it as far as the
bathroom door before the sweats, trembling and pain became too much to bear, sending me back to
the bed. A second attempt was slightly more successful and by the third time, I’d managed to make it to
the kitchen only to be forced into sprawling out on the kitchen table, six feet short of the phone.
Being that my journey from bedroom to kitchen had been the most effort I’d put into anything over the
last several months, I was exhausted. While I’d managed to somewhat accomplish what I’d thought
to be a nearly impossible feat, I’d still fallen short of my goal. The table was hard compared to the
mattress I’d been so used to, and while you’d think it might be painful to lie down on, I actually found it
quite pleasing. As I looked up at the kitchen ceiling, I noticed something else.
When we’d first bought the house, the kitchen was an ugly shade of yellow. We both agreed that we
positively hated it, so the very first remodeling project we’d done together, was repaint the kitchen.
She’d gone on and added her own special touch by painting a grapevine mural up one corner of the
wall, then spreading it out along the ceiling. It was her way, she’d exclaimed, of making it unique… and
making it our kitchen.
“Oh God! No!”
My next recollection is of being startled awake by her screaming. She’d come home early the following
morning after taking the kids and spending the night at her parent’s. I guess when she walked in and
saw me spilled out over the kitchen table; she’d incorrectly assumed that I’d done myself in. She’d tell
me, over the course of the years, that tiny little moment; in between thinking I was dead and me waking
up was the single worst moment of her life. Each time she mentioned it, a little piece of me would die,
knowing that I caused it… after I promised I wouldn’t. It was then that I realized that I had been the
selfish one, and she, selfless. I’d taken her to the very edge, and then shoved her over…
Eventually my back and our lives got better. During that little escapade I’d inadvertently discovered that
doing a little bit of exercise then lying down on a solid surface did some kind of voodoo magic on my
spine. In turn, that allowed me to get up out of bed and get on with life. I’d also happily discovered that
just by changing my perspective a little, my whole outlook would change as well. The most important
lesson learned though, was that it truly was no longer I nor me… but we.
A few days ago… or maybe a week now, who knows… someone was in here asking us how we’ve
managed to stay together for so long, and while I couldn’t express it then, I can now. We’ve managed
to make it because we’re a team. That’s it. We made a promise, and promised to keep it… instead of
giving in and giving up… no matter what.
It’s funny actually, now that I think about it. We’re kind of in the same predicament now as we were
back then, only with a few notable differences. First, we don’t live at home anymore, but in a home.
Willow Pines “retirement” home is the name on the pamphlet (and all of the towels) so I guess that
must be it. Sadly, the other little difference is that because of a series of strokes, she’s now the one
confined to the bed… and unfortunately, I’m the one who’s lost my mind. Thankfully she’s still able to
speak, and she continues to fight to keep me with her.
I wrote all of this down because today is a clear day, and I can, and want to remember. I wrote this
down, because in a minute… or maybe an hour from now… I won’t.
Michael Dalton, a nearly lifelong resident of Wisconsin, (USA) has been an avid reader and writer since he was a child growing up on the outskirts of a small Midwestern town.
Currently he’s working on finding an actual paying job.