The double doors eased open, revealing that blinding white light that usually accompanies hospital corridors. No one can really say that they enjoy visits to a hospital, and I am no different. Elderly and sick patients constantly cough, wheeze, and potentially spread their diseases. Even the hospital staff looks as if they loathe spending hours upon hours in un-naturally clean building. I, though, was not here for some unknown illness or near fatal wound. I had come on my own accord, reluctantly, due to Vincent’s request.
The nurses’ station looked as one might expect to find a nurses’ station. Papers were overflowing from the grips of the numerous clipboards while office supplies lay scattered across the desk. The nurses, one quite attractive, attended to their duties oblivious of the young man approaching their domain. I strolled up to the desk, brushing my hand through my unkempt hair hoping to catch the cute nurse’s attention and wishing I had worn something more presentable than worn jeans and an old wool jacket. Instead, I caught the older, considerably less attractive nurse’s gaze.
“Can I help you, sweetheart?” she asked in a voice that sounded as if she had been smoking for most of her life.
“Yeah, I’m looking for Mr. Joseph Calhoun’s room,” I replied trying hard to keep my eyes off the revolting wart that accompanied her nose. “I’m his son.”
“Ah, I see. He’s been expecting you. He’s in Room #214, and your brothers arrived not twenty minutes ago.”
“Half-brothers,” I quickly interrupted.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” the nurse stammered as she uneasily shuffled through meaningless papers hoping she didn’t offend me.
“It’s no problem. I just wanted to make it abundantly clear that I am in no way fully related to them. It’s just my misfortune that we share a father.”
“I see. Well, you’re going to go down the hallway on the right and take the first left. It will be the last door on the right.”
“Thanks, much appreciated.” I followed the directions given and found myself in front of my father’s room within the next few moments. I rested my hand on the door handle before I caught a glimpse of my father’s charts hanging below the room number. I began flipping through the stack of sheets clipped to the board. Joseph Victor Calhoun was scrawled in the name blank. Underneath his sex and date of birth, the doctors had written numerous descriptions of symptoms and regulated doses of drugs. Most of it was written in medical jargon, and the rest was simply indecipherable. With casual reading out of the way, I replaced my hand on the door handle and pushed my way through into what could have been my father’s final resting place.
My father lay propped up in his hospital bed with various tubes weaving in and out of his arms and some disappearing underneath the bed sheets. An oxygen mask held a place in his nostrils, running around his face and over his ears. His brow was dotted with droplets of sweat, and what was left of his hair, was standing on its ends in every way imaginable giving him a sicklier Albert Einstein look. His eyelids were closed hiding his brilliant blue irises, and his steady breathing indicated he was sleeping, or pretending to in order not to deal with his other two sons who were already present in the room.
My elder brother sat in a chair at the foot of the bed staring at his slumbering father, though he held no gaze. He seemed to be looking more inward than out. I was not even sure that Vincent had even noticed I had entered, or if he had, he didn’t show it. Vincent wore one of his usual expensive suits that always seemed to be brand new or professionally pressed. Unlike my unkempt hair and unshaven face, Vincent’s dark hair was slicked back with every strand in its place and no whisker showed itself on his face. His chin rested in his hands, as it usually did when Vincent would drift into thought.
With our father’s extravagant lifestyle, Vincent took on the mature, fatherly figure early on. His mother was our father’s first wife, and he was the product of that marriage, whereas I was the product of my father’s mistress. Surprisingly, though my being born was a direct cause of my father’s divorce and the split of Vincent’s parents, Vincent has always favored me and protected me, which I still have a hard time understanding. He never resented me or Jack, in fact, he was always there to make sure Jack and I were out of trouble. I was never really much of a problem, but Jack seemed to be more of a live wire, probably due to his eccentric mother. Vincent was a well-to-do businessman who always knew what stocks to invest in, as well as which horse to bet on. His gambling would be much more of a problem if he wasn’t so good at it.
On the far side of the room, Jack had taken his place on the windowsill. The window was cracked and smoke from the cigarette was playfully drifting outside. Jack attempted to carefully blow the smoke out of the window to keep it from drifting in the room, but was ultimately failing. Jack had short, messy hair in order to show off his array of neck tattoos, as well as, a black shirt advertising whatever band he had been listening to recently with the sleeves cut off to show the numerous tattoos running down his arm to his wrists with sporadic tattoos on his fingers. Some kids collect stamps or coins, but Jack had always collected tattoos. He rested his arm on his knee as he looked down at the numerous people walking through the entrance of the hospital.
Jack was a problem-solver and could have been a terrific detective or scientist in a different life, but due to his clear mental and emotional baggage, his problem-solving skills were more short-sighted. Jack preferred the get rich quick schemes than the logical, more legal methods. A quick trip to the corner store with a knife pulled in more money quicker than working a nine-to-five job and owning a savings account. Though, Jack’s adventures often landed him in trouble with the police.
“You probably shouldn’t be smoking in here, Jack.” I said as I moved into the room and took a seat near the head of the bed.
“Alright, just let me finish this one,” Jack replied nonchalantly without turning his head.
“Put it out, Jackson,” Vincent said sternly seeming to finally come out of his trance.
“Don’t call me Jackson,” Jack shot back. He took on final drag and after a short pause reluctantly threw the cigarette out of the window.
“Actually, I think I’ll have one. Not too fond of hospitals,” I said as I crossed the room and pulled a cigarette from Jack’s offered pack and took his seat next to my half-brother on the windowsill. Vincent shortly joined us.
The three of us sat shoulder to shoulder blowing smoke out of the crack in the window trying to remember the last time we were all in the same room together. Too long, I believe. We turned in unison to the sound of rustling of sheets behind us to see our father awakening. He looked us over one at a time before licking his lips trying to rid himself of cottonmouth.
“You guys probably shouldn’t be smoking in here. I think it’s illegal.” We looked at him, then at each other before throwing what was left of our cigarettes out of the window. Vincent and I moved back to our original seats eager to hear what important news our father wanted to share.
“I know we haven’t been the closest family, or a normal one. You three are my proudest accomplishments and I loved your mothers more than I care to admit. Though they each probably hate me,” his voice cracked and he wheezed with laughter. “This heart attack made me realize that I need to restore my family and not to die as a bad father. To do that, I need all of my sons together and happy. To love one another the way you used to, and I need you three to find your younger brother, Peter.”
None of us had ever heard of a Peter, and did not even know of his existence until that moment. Vincent dropped into another one of his unbreakable thinking trances, and Jack pulled another cigarette from his apparent endless pack. I let out a long exhale trying to wrap my mind around the idea of having another brother that I had no real connection to. My father signaled for us to move around him with his arms out wide.
“I need you boys to find your brother. I need you boys to be a family again. Promise me that we will all be a family again soon.” We nodded in agreement after a short hesitation, both to please our father and the idea of reconnecting a brotherhood that had been smothered out years ago. Two weeks later, we were on a flight to Richardson, Nebraska to begin our journey to find the lost member of our family and ourselves.