To Be

The rain lashed against the motel window driven with spite by a cold easterly wind that whipped up sea crashing it into the small harbour outside. It had been the toughest three days of his life to sit and watch his brother fade away to nothingness. He had been so strong in his youth, so handsome and loved by everyone that met him. Why did it have to be like this? Why bobby, why? He held his face in his hands and sobbed bitterly. Try as hard as he might he could not console himself with the image of his brother with all those tubes and wires.

The phone rang; he looked at it, eyes red with tears. It rang again only this time it seemed angry. Did it know that he did not want to answer it? Only the hospital had this number. Once more the phone demanded his attention. He reached out a trembling hand and grasped the receiver. He lifted it out of its cradle and felt the enormity of its weight, with every passing second the receiver grew heavier in his hand. He could hear his name coming from the tiny speaker, “Mr Jacks?”

“George, George Jacks,” he stammered back pressing the receiver to his ear.” His heart thumped against his ribs in a bid to escape the coming hurt.

“You asked us to call you when it was time, sir,” the soft female voice said with care.

“Thank you, I’ll be there just as soon as I can,” he paused to take a breath. The clock by his bedside glowered brightly at him, “I can be there in 20 minutes, I’ll have to walk.” He paused again letting out a short sharp breath, “it’s wet, you understand.”

“20 minutes will be fine Mr Jacks, sir.” Soft voice assured.

“George, it’s George Jacks.”

“Yes sir,” soft voice said apologetically, “George. We’ll see you in around 20 minutes. Everything will be ready for you.”

“Thank, thank you,” George almost dropped the receiver back onto its cradle, the weight of its burden had become too much to bare. George closed his eyes, held his head in hands, shaking it lightly he began to chastise himself for his inevitable procrastination. It was unlike him to worry about such things as this. It was not as though it was the first time that he had seen someone on the brink of death. There had been so many that he had pulled the trigger on and sunk his blade into none of those had bothered him, so why was this so much harder? Was it because he had nothing to gain from it? Was it because that there would be no personal satisfaction when he turns out the light and closes the door? Those were the things that he liked best about a job, the personal touches and call signs that he would leave for the detectives. But this, this left him cold this was his kid brother. The very same brother that took the rap for him when pa caught them raiding the liquor cabinet. The same kid that took a beating for him because the alley gang got their names wrong. No, it was just wrong, all so, so very wrong.

Without looking he thumped out the room lights just as the lightning flashed across the skies and sent a shadow flickering across his soul. He shuddered and stepped out into the maelstrom of the night. The rain raked across his face as the wind clawed at his skin chilling him to the bone. He tugged at as his collar but so much rain and sea water had already gone down his neck he didn’t bother to button it up. George Jacks, the man without a friend in the world walked the storm lashed harbour alone with a pain in his heart so deep that no drug could dull its edge. He lifted his face to the skies above and hoped that it would wash away his tears and rinse the grime from his life. Why could he not listen to his brother he had lead a good life and left testimony to his presence that Jesus would have been proud of.

An ambulance hissed by on the wet road its lights blaring but its siren mute. George stopped at the entrance to the hospital as the automatic door hissed open: the warm breath of lobby felt like heaven on his skin. Inside the warmth brought him some comfort from the anger of the night but his heart was being torn apart by an emotional storm that threatened to spill over into the outside world. He caught a glance of his reflection in the mirrored glass of the facility manager’s office how much he wished that he was someone else at that moment. He did not recognise the gaunt looks with the rain pressed hair, the empty eyes were definitely not his but nonetheless the image looked back with an accusing stare. George Jacks watched the young nurse as she rose from her chair and came around from behind her protective counter.

“George Jacks?” Soft voice had a countenance to match with a smile that wiped away the tears. “This way please.”

“Sure,” George wanted to say so much more but his thoughts were on so many other things. ‘If she knew what I was really like she’d have rung the cops’ he thought privately to himself as he followed soft voice along the hallway to the elevator. They stood in silence soft voice with her perfect white uniform and her clip board held close to her chest and him, well, what did it matter how he looked he wasn’t here for dinner. He stared at soft voice out of the corner of his eye not wanting to make contact with anyone but also not wanting to be alone.

Grace, that’s what the name badge said upon her chest. Just as he was about to say her name the elevator halted and she stepped out, “This way please, George.” He knew the way he counted the number of strip lights in the ceiling and the number of steps before each turn. 56, 57 two more steps and…

The room was lit with a crepuscular light where Bobby lay surrounded by dripping tubes and machines beeped softly, to George they were sound of death approaching with his scythe drawn at the ready. Grace was pointing at the various instruments, smiling sweetly at him. He blinked to clear his vision. For a moment his ears rang and his mind wandered, voices came and went. He sat down awkwardly and drank a soothing liquid from the glass that had been pressed into his hand. He had felt the touch of Grace upon his flesh and saw the light in her eyes as she looked him in the face. Her voice swam back and forth like a changing tide. He drank of the nectar again and felt her touch once more. “George,” there was concern in her voice and the slightest furrow on her brow, “George,” satisfied that his moment had passed Grace pulled herself away and gave him room to breathe.

His eyes wandered around the room on the wall directly opposite him was a picture of the harbour wall under siege, battered by a storm the previous summer. George smiled at the irony then without wanting to his gaze fell upon his brother. He swallowed hard cursing his selfishness, if he had not been so distracted by the girl in his car, he forgot her name the moment he met her, then he would not have run the lights and his brother would have made it across the road. Now nothing mattered, not the cars, the girls, the houses, or the glory that he got from his buddies in the hood. He had wrecked the life of a good man, a real good man. Beyond that were all the lives that Bobby touched every day with his tender heart and outstretched hand. His kid brother was everything that George aspired to be but lacked the humility to achieve. If only he could stop the tears and be the man that was lying in bed. If only…

George stood to his feet, the wooziness had all gone it was just him and his kid brother like it used to be, the way it should always have been. He hovered at the bedside to scared to touch the covers to afraid to speak.

“You came,” Bobby’s voice was edged in pain, every word was wrapped with a breathless rasp. “True to your word, as always.” Would this man ever see the real George Jacks or would his delirium go with him to the grave.

“Bobby, I,” Bobby barely lifted his hand from the bed but George knew to be silent. “I’ve watched you from afar. I know what you’ve done.” Bobby smiled as George brushed the tears away with the palm of his hand. “You’re a good leader George. I admire your courage, your passion, the way you get people to go beyond themselves. You’re amazing George I wish I’d been more like you then I’d been watching where I was going,” Bobby laughed. “I should have taken the bus like always.”

“You know why I’m here, Bobby,” George trembled and he reached for his brother’s hand. “I just don’t know if I can.” George watched the readouts on the monitor; the blips were less frequent than when he walked in. Why would those tears not stop? He wiped at his eyes then drew the deepest breath that he could. George thrust out his hand and stabbed the tiny red button with his finger. He opened his eyes licked his lips and stared with wide eyed terror at what he had done. One by one the instruments all fell silent the only sound was the beating of his heart pounding in his ears.

“George,” he turned to face his brother, “you done good George. Promise me one thing.”

“Name it,” George brushed the back of his hand against Bobby’s cheek.

“Do the work for me. Don’t let them be forgotten.” Bobby squeezed George’s hand he knew that this was a big ask.

“I, I don’t know how. All I do is kill, cheat and destroy,” George was cornered and he knew it, so did Bobby.

” Where you would walk on by – stop and care. Where you would kill – give help. Where you would hate – love.”

George heard the words in his ears and felt them in his soul. He had given his word now he would have to walk in another man’s shoes. He looked into his brother’s pain filled eyes, “Consider it done.”

“That’s good, I know I can trust you. There’s a letter,” Bobby looked toward the bedside cabinet. George followed his gaze, breathless he picked up the letter in his trembling hand. “It’s all in there.” Bobby bit his bottom lip as pain ripped through him causing his whole bold to tense. George looked around the room, he tried to cry out for help but his voice would not obey his thoughts. Frenzied he checked every pipe and tube that was attached to his brother and stopped when he found one attached to a tiny trigger. He put the trigger in Bobby’s hand and curled his fingers tightly around it and squeezed softly.

“Be at peace Bobby,” George leaned across and kissed Bobby on the forehead. “I love you.” He squeezed his hand again releasing the morphine, this time he did not let go.

George wept not out of self pity or anger but out of love. Slowly he relinquished his grasp and let his brother go. He sat and fiddled with the envelope in his hand flapping it like a fan until he finally got up the courage that his kid brother had so admired in him. ‘George’ is all that written on the envelope which he slid his finger in and broke the gum seal.

Taking out the letter he unfolded it as though it were an ancient papyrus, aged and brittle. He began to read. Names, places, bank accounts, and phone numbers. Everything that he would need to carry out all the good works that Bobby had done. He kept on reading until he got to the last few paragraphs where he sobbed uncontrollably.

Grace came and extended a comforting hand. She spoke softly but firm assuring George that what was written she had done so at Bobby’s instruction.

“Read the end to me, I can’t see through these eyes. They won’t stop crying,” trembling he passed the letter to Grace who sat on the bed opposite him and read in a soft voice.

“My dearest George, if you are reading this then our paths have crossed and my time has come. You have sent me to where I shall suffer no more. Fear not my brother for where I go the angels are waiting.

All of the people on this list are aware that you will one day come. Take this letter with you and they will help you to do all that is to be done.

Take heart and be courageous, that much I know you can do. Do not go on lamenting over me or crucifying yourself for being the cause of my death. You have released me unto new life. Cry no more for me George, it was meant to be.

Your loving brother


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