This week’s Paired Prose prompt is “calcify!” Be sure to check out Andy’s entry, “Desert Heart.”
“How’s he doing?” asked James, hugging his sister, Katie.
“The doctors are optimistic,” answered Katie, releasing their embrace and chewing on her fingernail.
“Optimistic about what? That he’s going to get out of here?”
Katie shrugged. “Yeah, I guess so. I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” James pressed, annoyed. “What did they say? Is he going to get out of here or what?”
“I. Don’t. Know,” Katie repeated, staring her brother in the eye.
“Oh come on,” James snapped, and moved past her towards the hospital room. He shook his head, annoyed with Katie, though he knew that she was probably just upset from the whole experience. Hell, he was upset, too. Their friend for years, Kevin, was in the hospital again, and it looked like he might not be coming out again.
James tapped on the door as he opened it slowly. Inside he found his friend reclining in the bed and watching TV. He looked exhausted and gaunt, but was smiling as he met James’s gaze.
“Hey man,” said James, stepping into the room and laying his jacket on a chair on top of Katie’s.
“Hey,” replied Kevin. “Good to see you, man.”
“You, too. How are you doing?”
“Well, been better, you know,” chuckled Kevin. “Is Katie OK? She seemed a little shaken when she stepped out.”
“Yeah, she’s fine, just a little worried is all. You know how my sister gets.”
“You weren’t a dick, were you?”
“Cuz you can be a real dick to her. Were you?”
“You should probably apologize.”
“I wasn’t a dick, man.”
“My joints and tissue are turning to bone, but my ears work fine, dude. You were kind of a dick.”
“Well you heard her, she was being a bitch, too.”
Kevin arched an eyebrow at James, giving him a knowing look.
“You always take her side,” said James. “I’ll do it later, I promise.”
“Good,” said Kevin, smiling and turning back to the television. They sat in silence for a moment
“So what’s going on, man?” asked James. “Is this, um, it…?”
Kevin glanced down at his stiff body in the bed.
“Yeah, it sure looks like it,” answered Kevin, sighing. “Don’t think I’m going to be moving much from this position again. All the big ones are pretty much done for, no more joint movement for me.”
“Shit, man,” James said, shaking his head. “No wonder Katie’s so upset. Stone Man’s down.”
“We all knew this day would come,” replied Kevin. “Mom and dad are working on arrangements at the house, but there’s only so much that can be done, ya know?”
“You’re taking this well.”
“Better than your sister, that’s for sure. I dunno, I guess with all the time I’ve had, I’ve sort of made peace with the idea. Stone Man was always a cool nickname, but we all knew that this would kill me eventually.”
“You’re not dead yet. You’ve still got years ahead of you.”
“Yup, and fortunately I’ve made myself comfortable,” laughed Kevin. James joined him in chuckling, but felt more than a little uneasy about it. They had joked about Kevin’s disease for their entire lives, but now that it had reached this point, James did not feel very jovial about it anymore.
“Is there anything I can do?” he asked.
Kevin watched the TV silently for a minute while James resisted the urge to ask again. Finally, Kevin spoke.
“You could ask your sister if she’d give me a pity blow job,” Kevin deadpanned.
“You’re a fucking riot, man,” replied James, “as always.”
“She’d probably do it, though, don’t you think?” laughed Kevin.
“Well, considering how long you two have been together, yeah, I’d dare say she would. And no, I don’t want to hear about any part of your relationship,” James said, cutting off Kevin, as he had that look on his face. Kevin’s expression faded back to amusement.
They then went back to watching TV, James fighting the urge to treat his friend differently than normal. He knew that even though Kevin was very sick that he would want to be treated like everything was normal. Kevin had been sick his entire life, after all, this was just another stage and he would deal with it like he had all the others.
Eventually they were joined by Katie, who took Kevin’s hand when she sat by the bed. Kevin shot James a wry grin when she did and James rolled his eyes. James was glad that he was able to be here for Kevin and Katie. It felt right that he be with them in this moment. The three best friends going through this moment together. So they sat and watched TV together, doing their best to be a rock for their Stone Man.