This story is based on Shane Koyczan's spoken word poem, "The Crickets Have Athritis". Late post, I wrote this in February.
Sitting up on my bed, I looked around the hospital room to see if there were any doctors or nurses. Satisfied that we were alone, I ripped off the needle taped to my arm and pulled off my hospital gown. I grabbed my jeans from under my pillow and hurriedly slipped them on.
“Jasper!” hissed Lewis, still in his dinosaur pajamas. “Will you hurry up before someone sees us?”
“Just shut up and be patient,” I snapped, struggling to get into my shoes. I immediately regretted it, but I didn’t bother apologizing to him. As soon as my shoes were on, I tiptoed to Lewis’ bed and helped him change out of his pajamas and into the clothes we’d hidden under his pillow. I eyed the dextrose stuck to his arm.
“I think we should leave that on,” I said.
“Nah, let’s just take it off,” Lewis started to pull at the tape, but I stopped him.
“You need that,” I said firmly.
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do.”
“It’s not like it can do anything for me anymore.”
I immediately withdrew my hand from his arm and looked away. I mean, what do you say to that?
I felt a tug on my shirt and looked down at Lewis with an impatient look on his face. In his right hand, he held a pencil and a notebook. Before I could ask him what the pencil and notebook were for, he pulled my hand and started leading me to the doorway.
Opening the door just enough to peep through, I checked if there was anybody outside. Certain that no one was around, I scooped Lewis up into my arms and carried him to the elevator.
We were able to make it out of the hospital, dodging into bathrooms, hiding behind beds, and just simply staying low. We had our hoods up the whole time, in case security cameras would identify us.
A gust of wind hit us in our faces as soon as we stepped out of the hospital. It was a nice, fresh wind, one that made Lewis smile. He slid off from my arms and grabbed hold of my hand. We crossed the street and walked for a bit until we found a nice bench, which we sat on.
“Where do you wanna go first?” I asked, stretching. Lewis didn’t answer. He was busy drawing and scribbling something in his notebook. I tried to look at what he was drawing, but he covered the page with his small hand.
“No peeping,” he stuck his tongue out at me. I stuck my tongue out at him.
“I just wanna see what you’re drawing,” I said, trying to get his notebook.
“Nuh-uh. You can only see this when I finish this whole thing. Don’t worry, I’ll leave this to you,” he calmly went on drawing, while I just sat there, looking at him and thinking.
A drop of water on my nose brought me back. I looked up and saw that the sky was darkening, and it was starting to drizzle. I grabbed Lewis’ hand, and we ran until he pointed and yelled, “There’s the diner!”
We went inside the diner, and I helped Lewis into the high stool. He scowled at me, saying that he was already nine years old and could get into a stool himself. I just shrugged and took a look at the menu. I saw a waitress approaching us, but before I could order, Lewis beat me to it.
“Yeah, we’ll be having a whole apple pie, please,” he grinned. The waitress raised an eyebrow at Lewis then looked at me.
“Yeah, that,” I told her. She looked at us funnily and disappeared into the kitchen.
“A whole apple pie?”
“Yup. Then, I’ll eat it with my hands, straight from the pan. I’ve always wanted to do that,” said Lewis, licking his lips. “And besides, everything tastes better when you eat it with your hands.”
The pie didn’t take long, and soon, the sweet, spicy aroma of apple pie filled our noses and made our mouths water. I paid for the pie then and there, so that I wouldn’t forget to later. We waited for a few minutes for it to cool before digging in, unwashed hands and all.
“This… is… the life!” Lewis managed to spit out in between chews. There was apple pie all over his mouth, chin, and some parts of his cheek. His hood had fallen off, and his shiny, bald head was exposed, but he didn’t care. His eyes were dancing as he scooped up another helping of pie with his cupped hand and stuffed it into his mouth.
I smiled at him and he gave me a thumbs-up. Lewis continued to wolf down his pie, while I walked to the little sink in the corner to wash the pie off my hands.
I could see Lewis from the mirror. He looked extremely happy, finishing off the last of the pie in his small hands. I looked outside, watching the rain fall and pour. What do you know? I thought. Rain on a sad, yet happy day. It made me angry at whoever was controlling the weather. Why make it rain now? It’s just making everything worse.
I sat down on the stool, swinging from side to side. I watched Lewis drawing again in his notebook, looking so content and peaceful. I felt angry. It was so unfair. Why Lewis? What did he ever do to deserve this? Why---
“Do you believe in angels?” Lewis asked me, without looking up. The question took me by surprise. I didn’t want to answer his question, knowing my answer would disappoint him. But I did anyway.
“Well… no,” I said. Lewis simply smiled. His smile seemed to tell me that even a sixteen year old should believe in angels. In miracles. In hope.
“Are you scared?” I managed to ask him. I suddenly wished that I hadn’t. We were supposed to be out here, having a good time. Instead, I had brought up the very subject I wanted to avoid.
“No,” he said slowly. “I think that dying is just the beginning of something new. I heard somewhere that it’s the door to another place. Somewhere far better than the one here.”
I looked at Lewis with amazement. He was really something else. A nine-year-old kid not afraid to die? It was ridiculous. Everyone’s afraid to die. I’m afraid to die. How could he not be afraid?
“Let’s go, Jasper,” Lewis got up and wiped his hands on his pants.
“But it’s raining,” I reasoned. “And it’s thundering out there.”
“I thought you were scared of thunder.”
“I don’t care. We need to learn how dance in the rain.”
“Learn to wha----” Lewis cut me off by pulling me out the front door, pushing me into the street, and into the pouring rain. I was drenched at once, but it felt good.
“Watch this!” Lewis shouted. He started dancing just like how any other normal kid would dance, with exaggerated movements and lots of jumping. I laughed and he yelled for me to try it to.
“Just move your feet like this, and make your hands go up and down like this,” he demonstrated. I tried my best, but ending up slipping and falling on my butt. We both laughed and enjoyed the rain beating down on our bodies. I closed my eyes and stuck out my tongue, letting the cool rainwater slide down my throat. A deep rumble in the sky sounded.
“I’m not scared of thunder anymore!” he grinned triumphantly. “Because I danced in the rain!”
“Because you what?” I yelled, not being able to hear him properly through the rain.
“Because I----” Lewis started to cough and shake.
“Lewis?” I opened my eyes. He was shuddering and he started to fall…
He slowly opened his eyes and let them wander around the hospital room. He tried to sit up, but I gently held him back.
“Don’t get up,” I said. I kept one eye on him, and the other on the monitor.
“I’m dying, aren’t I?” he whispered. I couldn’t answer him, or look him in the eye. I didn’t want him to see how sad and angry I was. I didn’t want him to see how much I wished it were me dying on that hospitable bed instead of him. How much I wished that he were the one going home in a few minutes, and not me.
“I knew today was going to be my last day. I don’t know how, I just felt it,” he coughed.
“Your parents are on their way,” I somehow choked out. Lewis didn’t even seem to hear what I said. Instead, he cocked his head toward the notebook on his bedside table.
“You can have that now. I’m not gonna need it anymore.”
“Hey, Jasper, remember our first day as hospital roommates?” Lewis grinned. I tried to smile.
“Remember how we’d pull out the feathers from the pillows and watch them float to the ground?”
“What about it?”
Lewis reached into his pillow and pulled out a feather. It was a nice, white feather. He twirled it for a while, admiring it. Then, he reached out his hand and said, “This is for you.”
I took the feather, and…
A flat line.
It’s been a month since Lewis passed. I will never forget how hard I cried when I opened the notebook and found drawings of all the good times we had. He was no Van Gogh, but to me, those little stick men were the best drawings I’d ever seen.
Ever since I met Lewis, I see the world in a different light now. I’ve learned what it means to dance in the rain. I realized that what Lewis actually meant was to face your fears and face them head-on.
I believe in hope now. I believe in miracles, too.
And heck, I sure believe in angels now.
Because right before the line went flat, Lewis looked at the feather and I heard him whisper,
“That’s the first one I grew.”