Since the stroke, his words won’t come—hide and seek, smudge and slur, thoughts and tongue as thick as mud yet clear to him.
“Speak?” He is urged by his nurse, his wife, his son, as if he will bark and wag for a treat, sit, heel, stay.
“Drink? Eat? Sleep? Pee? Pooh?” they ask and he is turned babe, wee child, slow, dull, and mute while his thoughts race, roads leap up, trees blur in the zoom, in the go go go of stay.
“Dad?” his son, no doubt, with those cards he loves to flash. “Let’s try this!” A game he sees, big smile on son’s face.
“Corn,” he tells his son whose face falls, eyes squint.
“Not corn, but…” he mimes red bite, makes sound crunch.
“Rose!” Not rose, he can tell. “Cat! Tree! Cup!” See, I know words, he wants to say to the card’s face, but Son flips through cards. His brain treads paths in dense woods.
He sees gold and green, but will not say corn more than once. His son wants too much, wants big long sounds, tongue traps, the kind that fill your mouth and roll like peas.
“Bird!” he says with joy. “Shoe! Pot!”
“No! No!” (bad dog voice). “Try, will you?” Son is stiff now, mad. Their eyes lock. Long look, big tear, such great big hurt. No fun, no good. Big damn, big bad word, big scared. He nods, long sigh.
“Just once,” Son says. “Come on, Dad. Tell me what this is.” Crumbs on trail. Son holds chance, lives hope, loves Dad. He needs truth from Dad. He lifts the corn card high once more. “Just once, tell me what this is,” he pleads.
Dad’s eyes shine with love and fun. “Card! Son, That Card!”