A tube runs through his nose, down his throat, and into his stomach,
Pulling out anything he puts in.
He’s hungry but he can’t eat.
He dreams of blueberries and cherries.
I see blueberries at the hospital cafeteria. I leave them there.
I go home, to Dad’s house.
Laundry. Life goes on. Dishes. Life goes on. Feed the cat. Life goes on.
He has blueberries in the refrigerator.
Should I smuggle them into the hospital?
I leave them there.
In Dad’s dream of cherries,
He takes down a colander, sets it in the sink, and pours them in.
They thud and bounce into an uneven pile.
He turns on the faucet. The cool water rushes over their shiny, red skin.
The morning sunlight streams through the kitchen window,
Gleaming on their purple veins.
He picks up one of the cherries that had fallen into the sink,
A straggler. He dangles it by the stem.
It’s softer and darker than the others, almost black.
“This one’ll go soon. Better eat it now,” he thinks, greedily.
He drops the cherry in the hollow under his tongue then
Pops off the stem with his front teeth.
He holds the cool fruit in his mouth,
Feeling the taut, cool skin on his warm tongue.
Finally he bites through the casing,
Landing his incisors solidly on the pit.
His teeth scrape the stone, separating the sweet, fibrous flesh from the bony pit.
He spits the pit into a bowl, splattering purple blood on the counter.
Flecks of meat hang from its bones.
His mouth waters as he grinds the flesh to a juicy pulp.
He swallows, and the fruit slides down his throat, solidly.
Such satisfaction, to swallow food. Such joy. Such ecstasy.
He wakes to the beeping of his IV machine.
His intravenous nutrition bag is empty again.
Elise Barker is an adjunct instructor of English at Idaho State University, where she earned her Ph.D. in English and the Teaching of English in 2014. Her academic work has been published in Critical Insights on Little Women and Global Jane Austen. She also has published narrative non-fiction in IDAHO Magazine.