the talking dog
The Last Supper
The bright Florida sunshine felt good against her face, particularly after the long, dry airplane ride, and especially after the bitterly cold Midwestern winter air she had felt the previous several months. Mary Richardson was finally on her long anticipated trip. As her mother could never have sprung for this kind of elaborate adventure herself, the two were extremely fortunate that one of the nurses at the pediatric oncology center decided to tell one of her friends about young Mary. Her friend called another friend at a non-profit organization specializing in fulfilling the final wishes of dying children.
When presented with the prospect of having a final earthly wish granted, Mary was more reticent than expected. She had been a shy child since her parents' early separation, but had become less so as the prospect of her untimely demise, and the painful precursors thereto, became clearer. Still, this opportunity could not go unsiezed. Her mother gently cajoled her, "Come on, Mary. Haven't you always wanted to go to that big park in Florida, you know, the one that's always on TV.?"
Ironically, Mary had never really given it much thought, but everyone assured her how much fun it would be, and she certainly didn't want to go into eternity disappointing her mother. She had read about the dying youth whose dying wish was to hunt down a Kodiak bear in Alaska; she had no such desire on her own part. Nor had she wished for a celebrity audience, or any of the other commonly sought after dying desires. Thus, a week in the Florida sun, being escorted around by life-sized cartoon characters, seemed as good a diversion as any. And it did seem to make her mother happier, to have something nice to look forward to.
The black limousine drove past the lushness surrounding the airport, past the various pastel colors, toward the hotel which would serve mother and daughter as base camp during their stay. In their room, they were greeted by a variety of tropical flowers, and a fruit basket. They also saw a gold-edged invitation, setting forth various activities to which they were invited, "especially for Mary". Although Mary had foregone a meeting with flesh and blood celebrity, cartoon characters come to life were in plethora.
When her mother suggested they set forth into the sunshine, Mary asked if it was OK if she just took a nap; the long ride to this point, after having gotten up so early in the morning to make the flight, had more than exhausted her, particularly in her already depleted state. Mary's mother, albeit with a disappointed countenance, demurred, and let Mary rest. She told Mary she would "have a look around" while Mary took her respite.
Mrs. Richardson went down to the hotel lobby, and perused literature pertaining to the various theme parks in the complex; it was mind-boggling. It was no wonder that this area of Florida was the world's premier tourist destination, surpassing the United States itself in number of visitors! What a wondrous spectacle. Indeed, there were theme parks that were designed to emulate the world's most exotic locales, only without the inconveniences of long trips, crime, poverty, those annoying different languages, or different currency (unless you counted the local souvenir scrip, featuring rodents and water fowl, in lieu of long dead White men). Mrs. Richardson didn't know where to start, at all. She took out her VIP passport, and boarded the hotel's monorail, which would carry her about the expanse of the entertainment empire. Amazingly, on this magical teleportation device, one could go around the "world ", as it were, and back to the hotel, in about forty-five minutes.
Meanwhile, Mary lay in bed in a cold sweat. She didn't know how to turn the air conditioner down, and it didn't even occur to her to pick up the hotel phone and ask for help. Other than her grandparent's house, this was the first time Mary could remember having slept in a room other than her own. She just pulled up the cover, and tried to keep warm. Fortunately, one of the hotel's VIP greeters knocked on the door, to give Mary and her mother yet another welcoming basket, this time containing tee shirts and hats. The greeter, seeing Mary shiver at the door, went over to the air conditioning unit, and turned it to a lower setting without even asking Mary; the greeter told Mary to just call "O" on the hotel phone if she needed anything at all. Mary thanked her, and climbed back into bed, hoping to fall asleep.
Although barely dozing into a memory of her parents and she strolling along a summer lake front, the image dissolved upon her mother's bursting into the room. "I'm sorry, Mary. The light was on; I thought you were up." "It's o.k.., Mom", Mary weakly responded. And it was; she knew her mother always meant well, even if she was occasionally less than perfectly sensitive.
"Anyway, Mary, its incredibly beautiful out. The sun is shining, and the park looks so beautiful--its just so clean and sparkling!"
"I know Mom, I looked out the window a little. I need to rest a little, if that's o.k.?"
"Of course, dear". Mrs. Richardson said, with just a tinge of irony. She excused herself a second time, and went down to the hotel lobby, trying to decide what to do next. The "welcoming luau" wasn't for a few hours, and Mary could rest until then.
She thought that a pina colada by poolside would be a treat; she walked outside the hotel lobby toward the largest artificial body of water she had ever seen. The immense pool was, in turn, surrounded by what appeared to be hundreds of lounge chairs, neatly aligned. She espied one in a shady spot, and sat down; she motioned to one of the itinerant waiters, and asked him for a pina colada. He told her that, as it was a "family resort", alcohol was not served. She had the pina colada anyway, sans rum. She proceeded to doze off in the warm shade, thinking about the bizarre twists and turns her life had taken.
The romantic disappointments, her dropping out of college to get married and have a child, the disappointment when her marriage failed, the disappointment of her lack of success, the paucity of the child support payments- all of them somehow seemed laughable, next to the biggest joke ever played on her. The child- the most precious thing she ever had- was going to be taken from her. As with everything else that seemed to have occurred in her life, all she seemed to be able to do was stand by and watch. She knew Mary probably had even less time than the three months that the doctor told her; she seemed to be fading before her very eyes. She just wanted Mary, for once in her life, to have a good time- to smile, and laugh, and run around, like she did as a little girl, before all of life's tribulations began weighing upon her small frame.
She awoke with a start, when she realized that she was already about fifteen minutes late with Mary's afternoon medications- those half dozen different pills that kept Mary alive, and in as much comfort as was possible under the circumstances. She rushed back into the room, and, again, woke Mary from her dozing. After swallowing her pills, Mary told her mother that she would like to go outside. Her mother brightened up considerably, as they went down to the lobby, and decided to board a ground tram to the main entrance of the main park. Mary closed her eyes, and enjoyed the warm breeze against her skin.
At the main gate, a ticket taker spotting their VIP pass told them to stop by "City Hall", where the "Mayor" would personally say hello to them. That building being just a few steps away, they entered, and, interestingly, a cartoon character was sitting at a desk, bearing the name plate, "Mayor". A photographer appeared, and snapped a photo of Mrs. Richardson, Mary and "the Mayor", the "Mayor" presented Mary with "the key to the City", and he escorted them to the "Town Square" outside of "City Hall". Mary smiled, meekly, but her mother could tell it was with less than full enthusiasm. Mary seemed a bit brighter when she realized that the "key to the City" meant that she could cut to the front of some of the lines for some of the more popular rides. Although she enjoyed the sunshine, and the rides, and the cotton candy, she became easily exhausted.
Mrs. Richardson took Mary back to the hotel (using the monorail) so that Mary could rest before the welcoming luau. Mary didn't look good; her temperature and blood pressure were higher than they should have been. Mrs. Richardson put mary in bed, turned off the lights, and called down for the house doctor. He concluded what Mrs. Richardson feared: the day was just a little too active for Mary, and she was taking a turn for the worse. The house doctor notified the hospitality desk; Mary's luau dinner was sent up room service.
That evening, Mary began convulsing, and began calling out, "Daddy, where are you?"
Mary's father knew Mary was sick; he had no idea it was as bad as it was. Mary's mother hadn't told him. He had actually not seen Mary in years, although he sent birthday and Christmas cards, tried to supplement his child support with the odd gift every now and again, and had often spoken to her on the telephone, although not in the previous few months. Mary's mother, not knowing what else to do, called him. He was, to say the least, upset that he hadn't been told how grave Mary's condition was earlier. He would be in Florida on the early morning flight.
In her semi-conscious state, Mary continued to cry our, "Daddy, where are you?" Mrs. Richardson told Mary (hoping that she could hear through her fugue) that Daddy was on his way, was rushing to her, would see her in just a few hours.
Mary resumed her vision of she and her parents at a summer lakeside. Mary's father had apparently dived into the nearby lake, and was breathing through a reed he had cut out- he was playing hide and seek from Mary and her mother. Mary's mother knew what a joker he was, but Mary was at first amused that Daddy was playing a game, then got terribly worried when he didn't appear. That was how she felt about Daddy leaving for good after her parents had separated, and her mother and she moved to another city. Just as her mother called out that Daddy was on his way, she saw him pop his head out of the lake water, jump out and give her a hug. She suddenly felt warm. Her mother was somewhat surprised that while she was sweating and violently convulsing, she seemed to have an incessant smile on her face.
The smile continued on her face even as she was wheeled down to the ambulance, and into the emergency foom, and it persisted for the next several hours. Surprisingly, the smile, and an otherwise peaceful expression, remained emblazoned on Mary's face until Mr. Richardson made it to the hospital forty-five minutes before she was pronounced dead. After a loud, unpleasant verbal exchange in the hospital emergency room, Mr. and Mrs. Richardson both realized why they had made no attempts whatsoever at reconciliation, even for Mary's sake.
Back to The Dog Pound
Back to the Home Page