"What did you hope for?" The priest sits by his bedside, not a friend exactly, but a voice and a kindness. He asks the right questions - the ones that are not quite intrusion but allow him to answer, to be a true person rather than a simple invalid to be washed and clucked over. There is no constant request for confession. He had been exorcised, washed clean in the pure mountains in Creede. The Catholic church has become familiar, reasonable, though he turns it to his own firm tenets. The man's fingers are warm and soft under his own bony ones still covered by the thin smooth gambler's skin. His wounds itch but he doesn't touch them, nor rub the bandages
John has not let himself hope for anything since he left Georgia. He had changed on that train, heading for Dallas, his future receding into the distance along with his past, becoming ever smaller, not dots but perfect miniatures of themselves to examine under the microscope of fever for the rest of his life.
Hope had always been too much to ask, accompanied as he was by Death. This had not meant there were no things for which he had worked. He had bought Lee - his chosen child - education and a future. He had worked for his friends, every one. He had worked to settle the West. No, that was Wyatt's dream.
No, he has not hoped. He has not worked for anything but his friends since he had become a dentist from his own vision and intention. But he has wanted. There have been things he wanted almost hungrily, even to madness. Wyatt. He has wanted to be known; wanted to know others; wanted a knowing eye to meet his; wanted an understanding hand on his wrist, sympathetic fingers in his hair. He has wanted friends and their shining respect for what he gave, for the wonders he could work. He has wanted to see them, to appreciate them soaring beyond him into the future, while he rode by their sides during the brief time given to him, breathless with exhilaration. Wyatt, and yes, others. He has wanted it so badly he has destroyed it. Not hope, but hunger.
Hope is treacherous whether he had life before him or not. Ever since the War and the lost idyll of Griffin, there has been nothing he had been permitted to touch and hold but it has been torn from him, or that he has not clenched so hard it had shattered.
"I am not yet dead," He answers the priest lightly. "It is too soon to speak of me in the past tense." To him it is a non-sequitur, though he is glad of the impetus to think of it. He has been dead twenty-five years and is stretching towards Heaven, where he will spend all of time with those he has loved.
Name: John H. Holliday, DDS.
Word Count: 486
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