, , , , , , , ,

by Michael Koenig

A cold day in late October: two shootings, five drug overdoses. Nobody took any special notice when the old drunk arrived at the Emergency Room of Our Lady of Mercy Hospital. Even though he carried no identification, cops knew the man’s name was Leonard Silveira; they’d arrested him hundreds of times before — drunk and disorderly, drunk and belligerent, drunk and shitting all over himself.

Everyone else was too busy to see the shock on Nurse Jenny Silver’s face when she recognized the man on the fast-moving gurney, delirious, near death. She’d only recently started working at Our Lady of Mercy and all her co-workers were impressed, not only with her professionalism, but also her utter refusal to entertain any personal questions, even the most mundane. For that reason, and that reason alone, she was the subject of endless speculation.

The old drunk was bruised and bleeding and oozing, the last vestiges of life seeping away, and he smelled like the dumpster they dump the contents of all the other dumpsters in. Jenny immediately took over, choreographing the team into a state of controlled panic. They ministered to the old man in the emergency room until his vital signs stabilized, then they put him in a charity bed.

At the end of her shift Jenny came in to check in on him.

Hello, dad, she said, tears welling in her eyes, a ten-year event, serving no purpose.

Fucking cocksucking bitch! he replied.

The memories were coming back now, as sharp and ridiculous as dreams. Her mother was an idiot for devoting herself to him. That would never happen to her. She had foreclosed upon certain emotions.

Jenny saw no reason to tell anyone that Leonard Silveira was her father. It was nobody’s business really. It was a minor miracle that he’d lasted this long, one of god’s minor indulgences. But she did begin spending time at the man’s bedside, as much as she could steal. And after a while, Leonard Silveira had recovered enough so that Jenny could tell him exactly what he had done to her.

You were the only man my mother ever loved. She died muttering your name.

The man’s dead eyes seemed to liven for a moment.

I loved that woman, the old man said. She was a great fuck.

You ruined my mother’s life, do you know that, you son of a bitch? She loved you and cared for you and you didn’t give a shit about anyone. Fuck you, asshole!

Aarggghhh, the man replied, like a wild animal, trapped inside a man’s clothes.

She gave the man an extra shot of the powerful tranquilizer they were using to calm his psychotic episodes. A few minutes later the convulsions began. She began reaching for the call bell. There was still time for her to chicken out. She watched him with intense curiosity. The drug was beginning to paralyze him, to smother him from the inside.

His breathing was getting more labored now. He let out a little moan. And then his breathing stopped. She pressed the call button and began performing CPR. When Julie arrived she told her it was no use. Julie put her arm around her and told her to take the rest of the shift off. It had been a light evening so far. Nothing like New Year’s Eve.

Michael Koenig’s stories have appeared in recent issues of The MacGuffin, Harpur Palate, Hardboiled, and the Paterson Literary Review. His work has also been anthologized in Awake! A Reader for the Sleepless (Soft Skull Press) and The Shamus Sampler 2, an international detective fiction collection.