Just a Fancy Word for Drinking Water

They gave him oral rehydration therapy, Frank says, but he threw it up.

Shit, Julia whispers, and puts her forehead in her hand.

They say it might still work, Frank says.

That doesn’t make any fucking sense, Frank. How the fuck is he supposed to get the water in his system if he threw it up. If you’re in a goddamn boat and the boat starts to sink, and you bail all the water out of the boat, the boat doesn’t sink anymore. How the fuck is he going to get rehydrated if he’s lost all his goddamn water? She pinches a fingerful of yellow hair in front of her nose and pulls it down until she involuntarily-voluntarily yelps.

Julia, Frank says. Julia, calm down. He sits next to her. Rows of empty chairs line both sides of the hallway, as if the hospital were expecting visitors four to a room, as if (Frank thinks) all the open doors all might suddenly close and the hallway might start to move, a great Hadean subway to nowhere. He touches her shoulder and she recoils from his fingers like a snail.

I don’t want to fucking calm down.

There’s a difference.

What’s the fucking difference?

The difference is in this case we want the water to stay in the boat.

Fuck you, Frank, Julia says acridly, you’re murdering my father.

Neither one of them talks for a little while. Julia knows she is being irrational but she doesn’t fucking care. Frank knows she knows, and doesn’t know the right thing to say. So he waits. The hallway is quiet. It is so quiet that Frank starts to wonder if anything is actually going on in the room, if the doctors are doing anything at all, or if perhaps Steve is already dead, maybe he has been this whole time and nobody remembered to tell the two of them, out here in the hall. Maybe the subway has left. Maybe the room has already been cleared. Maybe someone else’s father-in-law is already dying in there.

I mean, he finally hazards, sometimes the boat still sinks.

What?

You know, you try and bail out all the water and you don’t… look, I’m just trying to go with your metaphor, I mean, your analogy, I’m trying to say that it might still work.

The analogy?

The oral rehydration therapy.

Oh. Julia takes a deep breath through her nose, holds it, exhales through her mouth. I’m sorry I snapped at you, she says.

It’s OK.

I’m just… She holds both hands in front of her face, palms facing each other like she is clutching an imaginary basketball, and vibrates them.

I know.

It wasn’t a very good analogy.

It was fine.

They wait. What else can they do?

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