Inevitably Joe’s determined curiosity widened to include the rest of the world. As his medical condition worsened, his parents curtailed family outings without saying a word or ever referring to the involuntary confined nature of the shorter vacations. “Any chance of a trip somewhere exotic, Dad?” he asked, once. He saw the anguished looks and exchanged, entrapped glance they shared over his head. Joey never asked again.
Joey’s queries toned down and became more secretive. On his way to the public library, he discovered a table covered with stacks of old postcards in a junk shop. Joey fanned out sanitized images of capitol cities and stared transfixed. He fingered the old thick cardboard and posited himself there, an alternate Joe someplace seen by him only in his imagination. He knew kismet had randomly assigned him the death card.
Perhaps a few freebies were in the mix as well.
Some magazines had coupons for glossy brochures of vacation getaways. He filled out coupons in his careful script and sent them off. He started writing away to travel agencies and to the embassies of foreign countries.
Descriptions began pouring in from around the globe and woke a deep hunger in him for all the things and places he’d never get to see. His reading matter shifted to books about exotic locales. Joey did weeks of research on the wide, wide world in the library’s travel and geography stacks. He read about Europe first, and next he planned to move on to Africa, and South America, and Asia, last stop the Antarctic!
Lou found an application sheet his brother had hidden. “A new opportunity for a new life …Whatever your origins, nationality or religion might be, whatever qualifications you may or may not have, whatever your social or professional status might be, whether you are married or single, the French Foreign Legion offers you a chance to start a new life…”
Lou went on reading, incredulous. Joey had filled out the forms right up to the paragraph indicating that selection for the Legion was carried out in person near Marseille, and that the applicant had to be physically fit to serve at all times in all places. Lou put the form back in the desk and never told his brother he’d seen it.
Joey had a huge hunger to go see everything he read about, but his doctors absolutely refused to let him fly. It would have killed him quicker than quick. “I’m going to die anyway!” he fumed, but his parents intervened.
“It’s not going to happen, Joe. Let it go,” they said firmly.
By then Joey’s time was almost up; and they didn’t want to sacrifice any of the time he had left with them. It was, Lou said, his parents’ one truly selfish act. Even though Joey’s final wish before he died was a first, and last, Grand Tour, like the adventures he’d read about all his heroes taking through the ages, they said no. They couldn’t take the time off to go with him, the Bocci family didn’t have the money to finance his going alone, and he now needed continued, around the clock medical attention.
Joey endured another emergency trip to the hospital. At the end of the medical interventions his parents gave an order to his head doctor. “The next time, do not resuscitate,” they said and signed the necessary forms. Everyone standing there in the sterile room knew, quite literally, they’d just agreed to a death warrant. The only trip remaining would be a final one back to the hospital, and accepting that fact might be what broke Joey’s heart.
NOTES: ©Jadi Campbell 2012. “Hit and Run” is the first chapter of my book Broken In: A Novel in Stories. This story will run all month. Broken In and my other novels are available at Amazon as paperbacks and eBooks.
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