They came in a pack of four. The wolves from the Justice Department descended on my father once the disease became too advanced to conceal. Sometimes he recognized them for the enemy they were but there were instances when he thought they were old acquaintances and he wanted to reminisce about incidents that they had no prior knowledge of. I did my best to keep the predators away but they snuck in disguised as doctors, deliverymen and caretakers.

They came in a pack of four. The extended members of the family pretended to visit but really wanted to assess the situation personally. They insisted on holding their “visits” where they could whisper so low that my father had no idea what they were saying. They looked at each other more than they looked at him and some, I am sure, had never met him before though they all insinuated otherwise.

They came in a pack of four. The batteries arrived in the mail accompanied by a handful of wires in an unmarked envelope as a warning of things to come. My hands shook and everything spilled to the floor. The meaning was that the guests from out of town were more worried about the local boys than they let on. If you’re lucky, you get one warning.

They came in a pack of four. The sleeping pills with all the warnings, side effects, and harmful drug interactions were in individualized boxes but there was no shortage of them.  I made sure my father’s prints were on every box, every label, and every piece of inner wrap. I put all of them in his mouth – four at a time – and forced him to drink them down. I held his hands and watched him leave.

by Michael Gunn


Michael Gunn has been previously published in Shotgun Honey.

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