Hard to Swallow

 By Madison Blissett de Weger

That night I was woken by the sound of my feeding tube clogging. The machine beeped long like a heartbeat flatlining. The sheets were soaked and stained with yellow chip sprinkles. My skin was sticky as if I put my entire body up a Push-Pop and licked it all over. My mouth was dirt-dry, so I padded into the kitchen for a glass of water. Following the path by fingertips running across plaster and toes booting the air for coffee tables and dining room chairs, only fumbling for the light switch when the carpet turned to wood. The fluorescent bar zapped before deciding to stay on. 

Dad was leaning over the sink. He grunted when the light came on and busied his hands in the sink. I heard water lapping onto the marble benchtop. I pretended I hadn’t seen him and pull open the fridge. He called my name, twice. 

I asked why was he up, and he grunted. “What does it look like?” He held up a plate that had remnants of detergent and bolognaise settled on it, like it had been sitting there festering for hours and quickly drizzled with soap. 

He asked me what woke me. “Thirsty.” I felt like I was telling a lie even though that really was what I’d been doing. 

“Righto,” he said. He turned away from me again, finishing the conversation. He never did have much to say. 

“Well then, I – I better head to bed. Appointment early tomorrow.” 

“Yeah, leave at seven,” he said, like he’d never thought about the results that came after the appointment. He didn’t seem worried, which I guess made me feel better. Maybe he didn’t care. 

“Oh, and Dad,” I said and he turned around. I got down on my knees, ready to beg. “Can you please buy me a new fa––” 

But before I could finish, he grabbed my forearm and yanked me upwards. He bent over me with his face twisted up like a tree root. Searching me, holding me up, cupping cheeks. “Madi, tell me where it hurts. What’s wrong?” 

I stepped backwards, thinking he was tricking me. Only tricking me. But his eye twitched and he blinked three times, one, two, three, and it was a sign. A sign that told me for sure his head was nowhere good. 

“I just – I just wanted a fan. A fan in my room.” 

I heard footsteps and Mum stands over us. They look at each other, and must have passed a mental message back and forth. A hand grabbed the palm of my hand and I sat against the wall. My mouth tasted funny and I tried to swallow it all down. It didn’t budge. 


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