Paul H. Williams, Contributor
Ethan Jackson was lying on his hospital bed when his friend, Malcolm, visited. He could hardly move, and pain was stinging and running through his entire body as his diseased heart fought to keep him alive. He was brought to the hospital the day before, after collapsing at home upon his return from early-afternoon errands. Quick examinations had revealed serious heart complications.
After pleasantries were exchanged, Malcolm attempted to discuss what was happening with Ethan, but he was in too much pain to give long answers. But the news that someone had won the lottery sent a shockwave through Ethan's head. Malcolm didn't notice the look of anxiety that briefly fluttered on Ethan's face.
Shortly after Malcolm left Ethan's bedside, Ethan's wife turned up with food and drink. When she asked Ethan how he was feeling, Ethan said he was feeling much better than the day before, and would not mind going home.
"Yuh sure?" Murine asked.
"I no see any reason why I have to stay here. Mi no can tek the medication at home same way," Ethan retorted in a weak voice.
"I'll ask the doctor."
"Ask? Tell them mi want to leave."
"But, is what kind a rush yuh in, yuh no see yuh well sick."
"Mi still want to go home. Mi not staying here. Mi not into it."
"Yuh need treatment that I can't give yuh at the house, so yuh have to stay until such time."
In a much stronger voice, Ethan countered with, "Until such time!? What that mean?"
"Anyway, yuh want something to eat? Patrick and him wife say them coming to see you later."
"At the house, though, because ah won't be here."
With a slight hiss of the teeth, Murine got up and went to fetch the food she had brought Ethan. As Ethan ate, he thought about how he could get the doctors to discharge him. Murine, too, was silent.
Beneath her calm appearance, there was much worrying going on. That Ethan could be terminally ill was the source of much discontent. She would have loved to take her beloved home, but he was very weak.
But for whatever reason, Ethan's condition improved significantly over a two-week period. And the more he improved, the more impatient he had become. He would sit up in bed, from which he dangled his lower legs, showing that he was all right.
The tension between himself and Murine also intensified. She wasn't ready for his discharge, and their children agreed with her. Their visits were also awkward as Ethan begged them to sign the release form. But for them, too, he was going nowhere.
During that same period of renewed vigour, Malcolm had visited twice, and each time the issue of the non-declaration of the lottery winner was broached. Malcolm ranted about which idiot could win so much money and didn't want to claim it, or about who could be so "careliss to laase dem ticket". "Two hundred and forty million, eh nuh!" he exclaimed 240 million times in disbelief.
At one point, when Malcolm realised Ethan was not as concerned as he was, he said, "Man, you know how much that money could help all you right now. So yuh never buy any ticket before yuh tek sick?"
Ethan mumbled something, which Malcolm struggled to hear, but just as he was about to ask again, Murine and her children appeared on the ward. They chatted with Malcolm for a while, before Malcolm left to give them time with Ethan.
The specialist who was assigned to Ethan happened to be on ward, and he discussed Ethan's conditions with his family. Ethan could be released, but it was risky, they were told. Ethan was willing to take the risk. Arrangements were made for his release and by the following evening, a very happy Ethan Jackson was back in his own bed. A practical nurse was hired to tend to him at night.
Two nights after Ethan's return, a fretful Murine was jolted from her slumber by loud thuds on the stairs to the second floor. She shot up in bed bewildered. Something terrible has happened to Ethan, she thought. Then there was a heavy rap on the bedroom door. She flew out of the bed and quickly pulled the door open. The nurse, looking as scared as an obeah man being chased by a coolie duppy, shouted, "A can't find Mr Jackson!"
"A drop asleep in the chair," the trembling nurse cried out.
"Oh damn it!" Murine exclaimed. She knew right away where Ethan could be. He wanted to stay in an upstairs room where he used to lounge, but for emergency reasons, he had to be downstairs.
That lounge was two doors from Murine's bedroom. She rushed past the confused-looking nurse, who watched as Murine attacked the door to the lounge. She pushed it in forcefully. Light was in the room, and so was Ethan. He was slumped in a chair with a little wooden box on his lap.
"Ethan!" Murine shouted. By now, the nurse was at the door. Ethan didn't budge. In a few seconds, Murine was in front of Ethan. She stopped and stared. In his right hand was a piece of paper. "Ethan!" she shouted again, as she shook his shoulders. But Ethan didn't move as the paper, a lottery ticket fell from his hand. His heart had finally stopped beating.