The Pain

[Fiction Friday]

Once upon a time, there was a mechanic. He was tough and solidly built out of muscle. He was the kind of guy that you would prefer to have at your table at the bar when the booth next to you starts to get a little rowdy and angry.

This guy could fix any car that you brought to him. The old ones that no one remembered how to fix, and the new ones that seemed to be more computer than can. Somehow he had a knack for knowing exactly where the problem was.

One day the mechanic came home to find a message on his answering machine. His mother had been brought to the hospital that afternoon — no further details.

The mechanic made a few calls. The hospital wouldn’t tell him anything. He couldn’t reach his sister. It probably didn’t matter anyway — she was in Nepal. The mechanic quickly realized that he would need to go to the hospital to be with his mom.

But that presented a problem. The mechanic hated hospitals. When he was 7, he had a broken leg. It hurt more than anything else in his life. He knew in his heart it wasn’t the hospital that made his leg hurt. But every time he thought of hospitals, he remembered the excruciating pain. When he was 7 he wasn’t sure that it would ever go away. He didn’t know if he would ever get back to normal.

The mechanic went to the hospital: the smells, the sights, the sounds, all dredged up old memories. The mechanic spent time with his mom. It was a minor fall. She would be out in a couple of days. The mechanic visited daily and found that she was feeling a little bit stronger each day.

Then Thursday came, and the mechanic went to pick his mom up to take her home. But she wasn’t waiting for him by the door as they had agreed. The mechanic parked and went inside, looking for her. She probably was delayed by a doctor. The bed that his mom had been in was already occupied by someone else. He asked the nurse, she didn’t tell him anything but said that he would have to wait for the doctor. The doctor arrived 20 minutes later.

“We’re sorry. It was unexpected. There is no way anyone could have known.” All sentences that don’t help the mechanic understand what has happened. He understands that his mother has passed away, but he doesn’t understand why.

That day the mechanic learned that there could be something more painful than a broken leg. He also realized that hospitals heal, but for some people, they will always be a place of pain.