Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Deathbed Conversion

77. Write a short death scene in which the person dying changes his mind about something fundamental to the life that is about to be completed.

Albert sat up in bed writing furiously. It was late afternoon, he had spent the day working on the problem by the sunlight falling through the simple white curtains. The sun was lower and dimmer now, and it was almost too dark to work comfortably, but he hadn't turned on the lights yet. Reams of notes and diagrams were stacked on the large table beside his bed.
His nurse entered the room and turned on the light. Albert blinked, pausing only a moment to adjust to the bright white page. The nurse held out his cup for him, rather than placing it on the table, it was one of her ways of forcing him to engage with something other than his work. She saw little value in his scribblings, and knew that if he let himself be more active, he would be healthier for it. She was always looking for something that would draw him out and get him to live. If she only knew.
He kept on scribbling and she kept on holding out the cup. He knew she knew he saw, and knew her ways. When he finished the thought, when he decided to, he took the cup.
"When you are ready, Albert," She said striding confidently back out of the room, "Dinner will be downstairs."
He was distracted enough to watch her leave. She was much younger than him, but he wasn't too old for her. Even just a few years ago, he would have pursued her. The balance of his dual passions had always tilted toward the lovely, and somehow even the lovely and young had found him enthralling. Only since he learned how limited his time was had he focused so adamantly on his work. Now he was more driven by his desire to find an answer.
Still, no answer came.
Every system left something out, every model had some intractable failing. Albert sat and sipped his too hot tea, and stared at the clock. It was a large brass table clock with a fully exposed mechanism, he kept it close for inspiration. Time was such a fluid thing, and now the clock made him ponder the irony that he of all people was running out of it.
He set his tea and his papers on the table, and tossed the quilt to the foot of the bed. If he was to be content, he would have to be content without an answer. He pivoted his legs to the floor, put on his slippers, slowly stood, re-tied the belt of his robe, and never made it to the bottom of the stairs.