VICKIE TALKS WITH HER FATHER, EDITOR OF THE LOCAL PAPER ...
“I’ve got a story … a good story, really. Well, not ‘good’ in the sense that it’s going to make people happy. But … oh, I’m not sure what I mean. It took me half the day to write it,” he went on, “and now I’m not sure I even want to run it in the paper.”
“What’s it about?”
“Well, that’s the problem,” he said. “It’s about someone who’s dying, and—”
“Yes. And it’s a sad story … the whole family situation is sad. And I know people would want to help them, if they only knew about it. The family is poor. They can’t afford the medical treatments.”
“And you don’t want to publish the story because …?”
“Because the family does not want the story to become public.”
“And, Vickie, no one understands this better than I do. When your mother died, I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone.[i] I didn’t want people to know … I didn’t want them staring at me … feeling sorry for me. I nearly moved away when it happened.”
“So why are you even thinking about running that story, Father?”
“Because, as I said, the family needs financial help. The story will probably generate some contributions.” He paused. “But I just don’t feel right about it.”
“How did you find out about it?”
“I was at the hospital late yesterday afternoon,” he said. “There’d been an auto accident out on the freeway, and I was interviewing one of the people who was hurt … not badly. And anyway, I saw this family sitting there in the waiting room, as I was leaving. They looked so terribly sad, sitting there, clustered together in a corner of the room. Vickie, they were all touching one another—the mother, the father, the boy.”
“Yes. He was the one who is sick, Vickie. The one who’s getting treatments. They were just holding on to one another, waiting for the nurse to call for the boy.”
“How did you find all this out?”
“Oh, I know people at the hospital, Vickie. I have ways … I wish I didn’t.”
“Do I know the family?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Father replied. “They’re new in town.”
I felt a cold hand touch my heart.
“What’s their name, Father?”
“Bysshe,” he said. “The Bysshe family. It’s weird, isn’t it? They spell it just as Percy Bysshe Shelley did, and …”
That was all I heard. I felt myself slip from the chair and collapse onto the floor. I entered a darkness so complete that I remember thinking, in my last moment of consciousness, that no light could possibly penetrate it.