Our Grandfather Chokes to Death on a Flower
In the mornings, we'd find him bathed in a sickly sweat. Maybe having kicked off his covers during the night, he'd be naked: sparkling and sloppy wet in the sunshine. We said he was like an eyeball-needing always to be kept moist.
In those last days, he'd be covered in green bumps--tiny sproutings which sprung from the skin between his wispy chest hairs. Mother would pluck each and every green stem until they were all gone, but in the morning, they'd have grown back longer and thicker than before.
When we'd open the windows, the smell of the sea would be strong in our noses. The deep gray water would be dimpling in the rain, and it would be difficult for me--eight years old then--to take my eyes off it no matter how loud and desperate our grandfather's choked cries were. The ocean waves reminded us of his ribs: distinct and always rising, always falling.
Near the end we saw it--deep in his throat, back by his tonsils, but pushing forward, the thick curled-up petals of a red Campion flower growing from somewhere deep inside of him. Mother curled up whimpering in the corner when she saw it, teardrops dripping from her chin onto the wood-paneled floor.
We couldn't pull this sprouting out no matter how hard we tugged; our kitchen knives couldn't cut it though it brought blood trickling from his teeth and tongue.
In those last days, his voice was so shrill, so wordless, his cries were indistinguishable from those of the gulls perched on our roof and window-shudders; he could no longer summon the full force of his diaphragm. He was being choked from the inside worse and worse each morning until, in the end, blurry-eyed, he couldn't scream at all; he retching and gagged and kicked his legs, but no sound escaped.
The morning he died was quiet--none of us howled or sobbed seeing
his eyes rolled back in his head. We stood around him: each of
us thinking different things, but none of us surprised
that the red Campion flower was in full blossom just above his
faded, dying breath.