Circus clowns visit sick boy. CC photo Boston Public Library.
Circus clowns visit sick boy. CC photo Boston Public Library.

Nursing this Kilbeggan double-shot had not changed a thing. My only son, Breandan, was in Massachusetts General Hospital with a 103+ fever and not an answer to be found. Surrounded by icepacks, I couldn’t hold him. I could only touch his hand. Actually, I couldn’t even do that through the powdered latex gloves. It had been seven days since I had held him. We had been here at Massachusetts General for the last three days and I just couldn’t take any more. I left.

So here I am… 101 Brewski Street: Inside the bar at the hotel, getting ready to end three years of battling the demon.

He’s still so little. I clearly remember his first words: Mama, Da, and Coown. The last one was why I had left Ailene, my beautiful wife of six years, at the hospital. Breandan had had a restless night. For the last three hours he was murmuring in his feverish dreams: “Coown…. Coown…. Coown.”

He wanted that stupid, precious, mustard-yellow and burnt-orange clown that Maimeó Catherine, Ailene’s mother, had years earlier given him to entice him to take his first steps toward her. Once he had grasped that small, stuffed clown, it had not been out of his hands. We had to wash ‘coown’ while he was asleep so that the emotions did not overflow from his heart at being separated from this precious treasure.

“AA, huh?” a burly gentleman suddenly appeared beside of me on the next barstool. I must have looked puzzled because he said, “The best Irish whiskey in the house, but you are just caressing the glass. Can I ask?”

I suddenly was as Breandan without his ‘coown’. All of my emotions came gushing out. The years pursuing Ailene with her resisting because of my demons. Being free of the demon for four years. Withstanding every temptation because of my need to see the trust in Ailene’s eyes. Finally explaining that my son lay at Massachusetts General wanting his clown, and there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t find his clown.

The man listened. At least I think he did. He sat there with an calm understanding radiating from his eyes that only another AA could fathom. Then he said.  “You should go back. You need Ailene and Breadeen more than you need that drink.”  He was gone. I looked around through hazed eyes and he was nowhere to be found.

Three years was not something I wanted to throw away. Neither was the trust I cherished to see daily in Breadeen’s eyes and Aileenes’.  I slide my untouched double shot back to the bartender and with reddened eyes walked out onto the street. To any passerby, I probably was just another over-achieving imbibeler, staggering and red-eyed, and probably a tad ripe. But I knew they were wrong. I had faced the demon once again and side-stepped his challenge.

I hailed a cab and gave the address.  Drunk from exhaustion I stumbled into the foyer of the hospital and headed straight for the elevator. There were two other strangely dressed men waiting at the left ahead of me. The door opened and we entered together.

“What floor?” they asked.

“Five, Pediatrics,” I replied.

As the elevator rose, so did my spirits. I had overcome the demon once again. I was on my way to see Aileene. I was on my way to see my son.

The elevator door opened. I was slightly surprised that the three of us all exited onto the same floor. The hallway was packed. There must have been twenty people all standing around excitedly whispering back and forth. But that was not the strangest thing. Only three were in hospital dress. The rest were all attired as clowns?

I shook my head in wonderment. Maybe I had not just nursed my Kilbeggan?

(Written for Flash Fiction Friday)


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