by Robert Stoddard
Ever since the hospital, Josh had been taking night walks. He'd wait until all the
neighborhood dogs had been walked and most of the house lights were out. Then,
he'd escape into the solitude of darkness where he could talk to himself or cry
with nobody around to care.
He was doing a lot of talking and crying these days.
Josh didn't think he was crazy. After almost dying from cancer, he was just trying
to figure things out. Night walks were perfect for that.
Plus at night, his wife, Megan, never wanted to go with him. During the day, she
was always hovering or peeking in on him, looking for signs that he was getting
better. Even when she was at the grocery store, she would call to see how he was
doing, and he felt smothered by her concern. But by the time he went night
walking, she was out like a light on the sofa in front of the television.
Megan deserved to sleep. Through his surgery, through the terrible infection that
followed and almost shut down his body, then through the searing chemo, she had
never once left him alone in that terrible hospital room. She had suffered with him
through each one of his ordeals, getting even less sleep than he. Often it was only
her will he felt keeping him alive. And as his medical complications got more
complicated, he saw her get more indignant as she challenged incompetent nurses,
bullied doctors with her tough questions and demands and forced everyone to fix
him or suffer her wrath.
Many times, coming out of a feverish nightmare, Josh would see Megan's face
framed above him like an angel in a vision, and he would take that bright face
back with him into his hopelessness, holding it in his hands like a lantern so he
could avoid the bullets of pain that shot at him from the darkness and kept him
Now that he was home with no sign of cancer and nothing to do but continue to
recover, Josh finally saw the toll his illness had taken on Megan. It frightened
him, how tired she was. Anyway, he was better off on his own, away from her
concern, because what he was feeling now was far worse than all that pain and far
more private, and he didn't think she could handle yet another dread.
So Josh hid from Megan on his night walks. Hid from her faith in happy endings.
His illness had taught him that everything is random and that anything could
happen and did, but how could he tell Megan that? How could he tell her that
although the pain had moved out, his body was now being squatted by something
far more sinister.