The Last Rites of a COVID Victim
While my nostrils are tethered to oxygen tubing, I try to inhale my next breath, but I can’t push the air into my lungs, so I attempt to force in the oxygen from the compressed blue tank several feet away, but all I do is cough and wheeze while the fingertip pulse oximeter records my wasted effort, eighty-five percent, eighty-two percent, seventy-seven percent, which brings about more of my coughing and wheezing until the lack of oxygen overcomes me, and then, when I start to feel lightheaded, I slowly feel the trickle of air expand into my lungs, and the oximeter records the upswing, seventy-nine percent, eighty-four percent, ninety percent, and I wonder if my next breath would be my last.
On the second of November at noon, I was notified by phone that my younger brother, Noel, a two pack a day menthol smoker, passed away at Overton Hospital from too many carcinogens in his lungs and I thought back when Noel first felt unloved because I ignored him since I wanted to hang out with kids my own age and Noel picked up his first cigarette and never forgot how I acted and he refused my calls on Christmas and his birthday, and because I refused to make amends with him, Noel never uttered one syllable to me, so in the afternoon after his passing, I arrived at the ICU and touched his stiffened body, not wanting to believe the truth. I bowed my head, finally realizing that I lost my final chance to say three simple words. “I was wrong.”
John Lane’s fiction has appeared in Versification, 101 Words, Bright Flash Literary Review, Boston Literary Magazine, The Disappointed Housewife, Scarlet Leaf Review, Page & Spine and other venues. John’s fiction has also appeared in several horror anthologies. John’s story about a tragic playground incident was featured on the Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai: 100 Days, 100 Supernatural Stories podcast. Member of the Horror Writers Association.
Army and National Guard veteran.