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By Glendon Perkins

     The nurse walked in, said to me, “It’s time.”

     My shoulders slumped. I drew in a deep breath, held it, and let it out slow. If I could have prevented the moment by holding my breath, I would have.
     I followed the nurse through the door and down the hall. While I followed her through the constricting corridors, I focused on the carpet. There was consistency in the bluish-gray carpet; no change. Soon everything would change.
     “Are you alright?” she asked.
      I hesitated, trying to find the right words. Were there words that could convey how I felt? I’m not sure. I decided a simple response was best. “No.”
      “We could try some other things.” Her face was drawn, as though she’d had a long night as well. “I know we could approach the doctor and find something or someone. We could contact Mayo or Johns Hopkins.” Her voice cracked a few times
     I read clearing your throat helps to keep the tears from coming. I cleared my throat, my tears stayed back. “I…I…I th—think it’s b—best if w—w—we don’t.” Covering my mouth, looked away.
     She hugs me. We stood embracing for several minutes. I broke away first.  Time to finish this.
     We walked the rest of the way in silence. My emotions were wound as tight as a guitar string, and the slightest plucking would send me into a chorus of tears.
     She stopped in the doorway. Pointing at a laptop on a stand she said, “Just press the DISCONNECT button. I’ll leave you with him.” She gave my forearm a pat and a squeeze before walking away.
     Despite the warmth of the room, I felt like I had walked into an icebox. Shivers raced across my body, my blood cold, my heart solid ice.
     I felt cruel. Was I the Reaper, the Angel of Death? Wasn’t I about to do what he did?
     I walked further into the room, making a wide berth around the laptop. I looked up at the life support monitors. Several lines showed vital functions with jagged peaks and valleys. Some consistently moved up and down, others were furious with activity, their readings jumbled and mismatched.
     A web of wires and tubes crossed each other and meandered around stainless steel poles and computer monitors. A respirator with a white corrugated tube led to the intubation line. White adhesive patches connected his damaged brain to the EEG machine with wires of several colors. The room smells of copper wire and plastic from life-supporting devices.
     I approached his bed with trepidation and sat on the edge. He lay in a beige hospital gown, blankets tucked neatly around his waist. Clear tape secured the IV catheters to his wrists. The intubation tube connected to the tracheotomy.
     I wrapped my fingers his hand, “Dad, I…” The words lodged in my throat.
     Wiping my eyes and running nose with my forearm, I found the strength to continue. “The doctors don’t think anything can be—”
     I broke down in rivulets of tears, every pent up emotion over the last three months pouring down my face, my head bobbing with each sob.
     I was about to turn off machines that kept my father alive. Would I ever find peace again? Would I wake up every night screaming in the darkness? Would every look I received on the street, at work, or from my family and friends be anything but contempt? Worse, what if my dad lay there getting better and the doctors couldn’t see it? Would my dad forgive me? Would he look at me from the Afterlife and ask me, “How could you?”
     As my contemplation threatened to destroy me, a voice from the past spoke up.  “Son, I don’t want machines to keep me alive. I am going to trust your decision. Give me peace when I need it.”
     I choked back my despair. I whispered in his ear, “Dad, I came here to give you peace. I love you.”
     Looking at his face, I wondered if he heard me.
     I stood, walked over to the laptop, and stared at the screen for a moment. I raised my had to the keyboard, fingers shaking, palms sweating. I slowly lowered my fingers to the mouse pad…I pushed DISCONNECT.
     I walked back to the chair and sat down. I rested my head on his chest, placed his hand on my face, and felt his pulse and respirations slow, “I love you, Dad. May you be at peace.”
     Would I ever have peace?

19 thoughts on “Disconnect

  • Howard

    I really enjoyed the story, even though it brought back some old memories. My father passed away in ’97 after a short bout with cancer and my mother just passed last Friday. Probably not the best time for a story like this but it does show an alternative that we would not have considered. Thanks.

    • glenperk

      Howard, I am sorry for your recent loss. This story began last year when my father was in the hospital with a heart condition. He had to fill out a living will. This short story was born from that document.

    • glenperk

      Mary, I am happy you like the way it turned out. One of the hardest things about flash fiction is getting the story down under a hard word cap. The decision of what to keep and what to cut or what to add are difficult. Limited “real estate” as my editor would say, is what makes short stories so challenging.

  • Matt ewens

    My emotions were wound as tight as a guitar string, and the slightest plucking would send me into a chorus of tears – beautifully written Glen, emotive and must have been difficult to write. Well done, a great piece of writing.

    • glenperk

      Matt, I think the most difficult part of writing this story was getting the emotions down on paper. Feeling emotions and describing emotions aren’t easily written, for me at least.

  • A. Joleigh

    This story still has the same effect on me as it did when I read it shortly after you started working on it. So proud of you. Thank you for writing this and putting so much of yourself into it, and taking us along the journey with you as you saw it in your head.

  • Jasveena

    This story of yours is greatly intertwined with emotions, Glen! As the story goes, it builds stress and anticipation to know what happens next! Good job

  • ajwrites57

    Glendon, this subject is a painful one for many and will continue to be for many others. The understated tone of the narration adds to the power of the story! Congratulations for a story well told.

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    • glenperk

      Vashti, thank you so much. It was an emotional project for me to do. I am so happy that you enjoyed it. This story was a much different genre than I usually write. I am happy it came out so well.

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  • cicampbell2013

    Glendon, you had me in tears along with you. Such a brutally hard thing to do, but such a compassionate thing too. This may not be your usual genre, but you show great skill in writing in this one. I believe you that you wept as you wrote: it shows. Your writing is watermarked with pain.

    • glenperk

      Thank you, Christine. I’m touched the story caused such a reaction. I hardly ever look at the story anymore, it’s too difficult. If it’s any comfort, it is a fiction story based on some truth.

  • peternoahthomas

    Like other people here have said, this brought back some memories. This story is well told and I felt (relived) many emotions the character went through. I read the second installment “Disconnected Rose” before this one and loved it. This story however will stick with me for some time. Thanks for sharing.


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