Patrick Swayze died of pancreatic, too. I say it sweet, to cheer him. Who wouldn’t want to be like Patrick Swayze? Swayze took the six months he was given and spun it into almost twenty. The megastar had magic, square jaw and squinty eyes. What I’m trying to say is, Don’t give up. He says, Jane – it’s not my name, but what he calls whoever’s on shift – Jane, that’s awfully kind of you, the awful coming up like phlegm. He pats the chair beside the couch where he lies on a damp mess of pillows. No one visits him, not a neighbor, not his kids. I change his diapers and mash his food so he doesn’t choke, then turn on Family Feud. When I was young the host wore a flower and groped every contestant down the line, so it’s similar today but not the same. I cross my legs. My clog tips off my heel and I wonder if this guy had been a prick in his healthy life, or if people in any life are inherently disappointing. However people are, no one deserves what’s coming. I hold the death weight of his limbs; dab his pits with a sponge. How is the temperature? I soothe. Home Care 101: never let them see their smell in your face. Hold your breath if necessary. Someone did it for Swayze. He was 63. This guy is younger, according to his chart. But I’m not here for pity. I’m optimistic: Things often get a lot better before they get worse. I wrap him in a robe. He slurs the word Swayze, so I show him photos from my phone. Surely, your daughters plastered posters along their walls. At that he blinks, Jane, he says, you’ve the same bone structure, and I kind of swoon at the idea of sharing a body part with Patrick Swayze. Have you ever considered trading those scrubs for black and leather? I smile because no matter how dying you are everyone wants a smile. Would you like to watch? His tongue darts but a coughing fit takes over. I stand up and move my hips half-heartedly as I scroll through the TV. It’s always on. While I flip, I tell him, Patrick Swayze did it all, he was a classically trained dancer, he loved his wife, Lisa, and horses, too. He sucks like something is caught in his throat. He calls movies pictures. It was filmed up here, he struggles, suddenly a buff. Grossinger’s or the Concord. Drool spills from his lip but I don’t catch it. I’m busy dancing. He’s wrong, besides. Dirty Dancing was shot down South then dolled up to stunt for Sullivan County. I saw a special about it once on a different job, with a different man who’d go on to die. Leaves were painted and everything – to fool us. I hum, Hey, baby. I look over my shoulder and give a thumbs-up. And he nods. And I see it all coming back.
Sara Lippmann’s debut collection, DOLL PALACE (Dock Street Press) was long-listed for the 2015 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. She was the recipient of an artist’s fellowship in fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and her stories have appeared in Carve, Slice Magazine, Wigleaf, Tupelo Quarterly, Joyland, Front Porch, and elsewhere. She co-hosts the Sunday Salon, a longstanding reading series in New York’s East Village and teaches fiction through Ditmas Writing Workshops in Brooklyn. For more, visit saralippmann.com
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(Picture derived from a Surian Soosay image)