The Grind

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Mark's last reflection

Submitted: January 13, 2012

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Submitted: January 13, 2012



Mark couldn’t understand it.  By the book, he had done everything right.  At 33 years old he was well on his way down the ideal path of life.  Married at 26, he had himself a little son and daughter aged 6 and 4 respectively.  His career was unpretentiously perfect as a mid-level reporter with a local newspaper.  His popularity within the office was echoed by the surrounding community with whom he held a respected, unassuming standing.  A good father, he always tried his utmost to attend school plays, football games, trips to the park and beach days.  Most Saturday nights were spent with his partner and close friends in the local pub where he would drink real ales and converse about news, football and general banter before returning home to make passionate love to his wife.  He would later be referred to as “funny”, “intelligent”, and “a good guy”.

The smell of hospital fluids and stale urine was still in his nostrils as he sat hunched on the bar stool.  Three days ago Mark was standing on that same stool, swaying his pint glass back and forth with one hand while the other was wrapped around the neck of a fellow merrymaker he had only met that night and who himself had turned his chair into a platform.  The busyness of the bar had brought about much laughter, the making of new friendships, the rekindling of old ones and of course, the demand for Runrigs “Loch Lomond” as a final hurrah.  This classic occurrence in boozy Scottish pubs once more united all inside as they hugged, danced and sang:

“ take the high road, and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll be in Scotland before you,”

The customary routine of raising your head and arms to the stars on the word “before” was followed with extra exuberance that night as grinning bar staff looked on with tolerant eyes even as glass smashed and beer decorated the walls.  Emphasised accents rang out of windows into the streets outside. 

Marks memory of the night now seemed muddled somehow.  The song which rang so true in his mind was now stifled, as if he were hearing it from the bottom of a long hallway bordered by insulation.  Features of friends and loved ones were distorted into twisted smiles and black eyes.  Dancing now perverse movement, laughs now hollowed screams.

Sipping the malt, he couldn’t seem to bring any expression to his face.  The blood which once filled cheeks had now retreated to an unknown sanctuary some hours ago, leaving no indication of return or restoration.His motionless figure was coated with bleak grey skin from drooping eyes to emaciated fingers.  Another sip.  His ashen eyes looked down to brittle fingernails that seemed to be disintegrating like sand in the wind.  Words from familiar bar staff and regulars amounted to nothing more than foreign and unrecognisable noises hushed by the crumbling cartilage within his ears.

Mark preferred 12 year old malts but the 10 year old Auchentoshan nestled in the glass before him would do today.  He always felt those extra 2 years gave it that bit more maturity and crispness needed to make the drink ideal.  But what was two years to him now.  The build-up of five or six double whiskies had coated the inside of his mouth causing a vapour of alcohol to slowly drift out with each breath.  He would still need at least six more to face going home. 

Bone cancer.  It’s terminal.  That’s it, game over.  No more laughing or crying or fighting or fucking.  6 months more on this blue and green sphere so they tell him.  His children would grow up without a father.  After each day, the picture they have of him will erode and fade until eventually all that remains is a washed out memory without sound, movement or colour.  The pain of his widow will be immense.  The love will turn to hate for leaving her so soon as the problems of bills and school runs and teenage angst and loneliness are exacerbated by alcohol and rebound boyfriends who never live up to the lover that was taken. 

4 months later, Mark was lying with his eyes closed in a familiar hospital bed.  His left hand was gripped tightly by a wife full of fear and uncertainty, with puffy eyes draped in tears and devoid of hope.  A small girl held the finger of his right while her head rested next to a drip needle deeply embedded in a vein.  Intermittent beeps and hissings from hospital machines and respirators reverbirated off the walls along with sobbings and sniffles. 

He was only organs now; a cabinet of flesh holding failing kidneys, flaking bone and rotting tissue.  No more than a prisoner to his own mortality with only the consciousness of darkened dreams to cling to.  No fear or panic or uncertainty just a stillness equal to when he was a foetus in the womb.  As his heart failed his chest movement slowed.  And then it stopped.


~Parisan Mikel~

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