by paul beckman
The news wasn’t good my father told me over the phone and then he hung up.
I called my sister in Cleveland and told her that the news wasn’t good and when she began to ask specific questions I said to her, I’m sorry, I don’t know and hung up.
She called my brother who lived four doors down from me but since we didn’t speak she told him that I had called and said the news wasn’t good. He asked her to explain and she told him that she couldn’t—that’s all she knew.
You’re siding with our brother he said and hung up.
Next my brother who wasn’t speaking to me called my mother’s hospital room but when my father answered he hung up since he wasn’t speaking to my father either.
I put on my hoodie and Keds and drove to the hospital but my mother had left instructions that her sons were not allowed in her room so I called my sister in Cleveland and told her that if we want to know anything she’d have to come out and talk to our mother since us guys weren’t allowed in the room.
The next day I picked up my Cleveland sister from the airport and drove her straight to the hospital. On the way to my mother’s room we came head to head with our father who hadn’t spoken to his daughter, my sister, since he caught her going down on her boyfriend in her sophomore year in high school.
My sister stayed in my mother’s room for hours while I sat outside and my father sat in the waiting room talking to my neighbor brother who didn’t speak to me. Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer so I walked into the waiting room where the vending machines were and bought myself a Payday and a Dr Pepper. My brother walked out and I sat next to my father and ate my lunch while my brother neighbor took over my seat outside my mother’s hospital room.
After a while my sister and my brother walked into the waiting room and stood blocking the door so neither my father nor I could leave.
She said that Mom was gone and at peace.
We asked her what she and Mom talked about for all those hours and she said that Mom had asked her to keep their conversation confidential as long as we had family members not speaking to each other.
My sister and my neighbor brother walked into the waiting room and closed the door behind them. They took seats and my sister began and said to our father that she forgives him for not speaking to her and bears no ill feelings and hopes that he’ll come to Cleveland and meet her husband and kids. He shot her a look and got up and walked out of the room. I began to say something to my brother neighbor and he held up his hand and said, Don’t bother, and left and then it was me and my sister from Cleveland alone in the room and we’d always spoken so I asked her what Mom had said since we were the only ones speaking and tried to talk to our father and my brother neighbor.
She told me that as much as she wanted to tell me because there was information that I’d like to know and should know, she’d have to live up to her promise and not say anything until all of us were talking.
I took my last bite of Payday and walked out leaving her to find her own way back to the airport and Cleveland.
Paul Beckman specializes in the short story and flash fiction. His work has been published in England, Canada, New Zealand & Germany and several stories have been turned into plays. He’s had two collections of stories published in print, “Come! Meet My Family & other stories” and “Maybe I Ought To Go Sit In a Dark Room For a While” and a novella “Lovers & Other Mean People” published on line by Parting Gifts. Additionally he’s had two chapbooks published; one with Web Del Sol and the other with Silkworm Ink. He earned an MFA from Bennington College in 1999. Published story web site: http://www.paulbeckmanstories.com Some publishing credits: Connecticut Review and The Scruffy Dog Review .