Lewis was lying in a hospital bed. There were tubes. And wires. And machines. And a shiny stainless steel bedpan on a tray extended from a pole on wheels beside the bed about the position of his chest, beside a white Styrofoam cup with grape juice on the lip.
And there was a frog.
Sitting on the foot of the bed.
On the rail. Not the sheets.
Which remained white.
Neither of them moved.
The light in the room was dim.
There were rhythmic beeps.
With the next beep, the frog gently jumped, almost floated, up. As he landed, softly like a feather, a fuzzy white cloud emerged from Lewis’ mouth, suspending for a moment in air before carefully fashioning itself into the letter Z.
The “Z” disappeared into the ceiling.
“X” with the next jump.
By the time this strange procession reached “Q,” the jumps had grown slower with longer intervals between them.
The letters were rising even more gently.
The sheet over Lewis began to subside.
Retaining the form of Lewis.
Tiny rises by toes.
Gentle hillock rising to chest.
Obscuring now his head.
Barely a mound between toes and chest.
Arrayed beneath the abrupt rise of chin.
Rises looked like wrinkles.
He was all head.
The frog seemed to float very slowly up like a wisp and down like a single snowflake.
The frog rose again.
Gazing more intensely at the flat white sheet.
At Lewis’s mouth.
Shrugged its shoulders.
And resumed its rise until it was gone.
Synchronous with its disappearance was the final cloud.
It rose and stretched and floated, seeming to trail behind the frog. Tapering up to a point. A tender shoot descending at an angle. The last wisp puffed out in a horizontal line and rose to join them.
The beeping stopped.
The bed was made.
The pillow uncreased.
* * *
“Die” is a verb.