A Cough

He woke up with the sound of a cough echoing in his head and wasn’t sure if it was a cough from the real world or something he dreamt.  Sometimes the dream world lingered in his mind after waking and he could not be sure which was which.  Perhaps it was just a cough imagined, lingering in the air around him.  Then he heard another outburst muffled by walls.  A cough downstairs and down the hall.  The boy was coughing.  The man blinked in bed, turned to the side to check the clock. 3 a.m.  Maybe it’s not serious he thought, just a tickle.  He waited in the darkness, staring at the ceiling.  He heard another round of bellows, could hear the air forced from deep in the chest, could picture his son’s curled tongue and closed eyes.  The rounds of coughs sounded violent, everything seemed worse in the middle of the night.  The man sat up, thinking about the patients he had seen last week.  There was a little girl with a cough.  Pink cheeks, slight fever, a cough that doubled her over and shook her core.  He sat on the edge of the bed and returned to the darkness of his room.  In the distance, the boy let out a series that tapered as he ran out of air.  The man stood up walked out of his room grabbed a cup from the bathroom and filled it with water and padded downstairs, his knees clicking with each step, and the stairs groaning themselves all protesting the hour.  He opened the door, calling the boys name softly into the void of the room.  As he stepped in he could feel the warmth of another, fitful being.  He stepped closer and extended the glass of water as an offering, a plea to quell the spasms, maybe it’s nothing he thought.  “Here, take this.”

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