His daughter looked at the Cook County Hospital appointment card on the window ledge. It was filled with a string of appointments. There was no point to them. Cook County Hospital was big on tests, short on treatment. The reality was you couldn’t fight black lung. He felt his throat tighten. His eyes filled up.
“Your appointment’s at two.” She’d taken the day off work to take him to the hospital.
“Yes” he replied, and hoped she would go away. His daughter would spoil the arrival of the geranium.
“I’m going to the corner store, d’ya want anything? D’ya want a newspaper?”
“No.” He could hear how ungracious this sounded but he couldn’t talk to her. He would end up coughing. It frightened them both when he coughed up blood. It frightened Mrs Piotrowski. When she had seen the blood she had told him that she wanted him to go to their daughter’s in Chicago for treatment. Of course Cook County Hospital couldn’t do anything more than Centreville Clinic, but it helped Felicja to think that she had gotten the best doctors to help him. When it came to black lung, Centerville Clinic in Scranton had seen enough sick miners to be world experts. Perhaps Filicja just couldn’t bear to watch him die. They said it was like drowning. It was that, or overdose on painkillers. But he wasn’t a coward he would fight till he got too tired to fight.
It had been a good time to leave Scranton. His best buddy, Fred, died last week and the funeral had depressed him. Now he missed Felicja and wished he was back at home. It was too hot here.
The geranium arrived. He noticed that the third bud on the fourth flower had broken adding more pink but it still didn’t make it a better-looking geranium.
He laid back his head and tried to clear his mind. The geranium put in a hard day on the window ledge, in conditions that were detrimental to longevity. He and the geranium had a lot in common. He wished he had asked his daughter for a newspaper, maybe he could have found a way of providing shade for it. He should try to liberate the geranium. He thought for a moment and wondered how this could be accomplished.
He could send his eight-year old grandson to buy the geranium, but his daughter would be cross. She didn’t like plants – they were too much work. He wasn’t convinced his grandson was up to the task either, and he only had five dollars in his wallet. ‘For emergencies,’ said Mrs Piotrowski as she put him on the Greyhound. What emergencies? Five dollars was too small a sum to cover emergencies. It took all your dignity away trying to live off welfare checks. He only wanted ten more years, just ten more lousy years. A man could pass away happy knowing he’d done a life’s work. But, to end your days as a charity case – a burden. His eyes misted up.
He looked across at the geranium. A small arid breeze lifted both the geraniums leaves and his spirits. You couldn’t get out of the heat in Chicago. The grit filled air made breathing difficult.
They had no business with it, no business at all. He wondered if he could get something to reach across the alley to rescue the poor plant. He would take it home to Felicja to plant in the ground where it would thrive under her care.
He heard the apartment door close and his daughter left for the corner shop. He’d have about twenty-five minutes to rescue the geranium. He looked around the living room for a suitable item with which to collect the geranium off the ledge. There was nothing in the apartment that be used to retrieve a geranium pot on a ledge fifteen-foot away.
He looked at his grandson’s slingshot and the bowl of pecan nuts on the kitchen counter. Probably rock hard, he thought. They would have been bought for thanksgiving pies last year, now unused and no longer useful; they had been left to grow old. He could use the nuts to hit the pot of the geranium and send it crashing to the ground below, a sudden, swift and certain death. But the geranium deserved more; it deserved a second chance. Felicja would make it well. It could be the best pink geranium in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
He picked up the newspaper, he would take it with him to camouflage and protect the geranium as they escaped. He looked at the front page; he hadn’t read yesterday’s paper. The news was all the same. There was another miners’ strike on the front page, grimy faces in helmets telling the world about worries for safe working conditions. It would take more than the occasional headlines to bring about the necessary changes.
He would go to the apartment opposite and ask to look at the geranium. He would ask for a glass of water. While they were getting the water, he would take the geranium, wrap it in the newspaper, it would be shaded and safe. Then they would take off. Together they would board the Greyhound and go home to Felicja. They would both live until winter.