Twinkle-toes Tucker by Author Ken Kapp

Timothy Tucker was only half awake, the morphine drip dulling both pain and awareness. He was 86 and glad that Tania was not here at the end. He knew at this stage pancreatic cancer was neither forgiving nor pretty. He was nodding off again and pushed the arrow to lower the hospital bed another ten degrees.

I must have been 12 and still in Junior High, maybe I was 13. Dad liked to figure-skate, not Mom. Once a month she would let him have his Saturday night out. His Saturday night. Said he’d eat dinner at a cafeteria, go skating and then stay at the Y in the city. Later I found out he’d have a drink or two at a nearby bar. Said it was too late to catch the last train. But he was always home by ten Sunday morning, bright and smiling with a bag of bagels he bought in the city.

He woke when the late sun came through the half-open blinds and crossed his eyes. Struggling to find the up arrow on the side of the bed, he eventually found the cord for the hand unit and control and raised the bed thirty degrees. The morphine was wearing off but he wanted to stay with another memory from when he was a teenager. He closed his eyes.

Dad told us how he would joke with his skating partner. “I’d tease them, ask if they would like to wrestle.” It made Mom uncomfortable. She had slammed his coffee cup down and walked out of the kitchen. Dad was oblivious. He continued his story. “She told me I better think twice as she was a professional wrestler. I doubt Mom would have laughed if she stayed around for the end of the story.

The sun was now directly in his eyes. He pressed the button for the aide. He’d try to use the bathroom and asked him to open the curtains all the way so he could look out at the grass again. He needed help shuffling to the bathroom weaker than he’d thought. He hoped the end would come soon. On the way back to the bed he looked out the window and had to laugh at himself. It was winter; the grounds were snow-covered and there were ice patches in the hospice parking lot.

On the window ledge he spotted the figure skating trophy he had won more than 70 years ago. He had forgotten.

His bed had been freshened. The aide asked if he would like to sit up for a while and if he could bring him anything.

Timothy nodded, said he would like to sit up for a while and could the aide bring him his trophy.

The back of the bed was raised and he was made comfortable, the blankets were pulled up to his chin. The aide wheeled the hospital tray around and got the trophy from the window ledge, examining it as he put it on the tray. “Nice trophy, Mr. Tucker. Did you continue to skate when you got older? My kids started out in sandlot soccer but stopped once they started dating in high school.”    

Timothy shook his head and manage to whisper, “No.” He felt weak, leaned back and let the trophy fall in his lap.

The aide moved it back to the tray and slowly lowered the head of the bed until Timothy signaled that he should stop. His eyes looked once more at the trophy before closing.

I would have continued skating; Dad said I had potential. But the kids at school found out I had won that trophy and started teasing me, Twinkle-toes Tucker; Twinkle-toes Tucker. Even kids in the other grades would come up to me, Hi, Twinks! I stopped skating, told Dad I had too much schoolwork. But the nickname stick with me all through high school.

He pressed the button on the morphine drip. The aide returned to the room. “Can I help you, Mr. Tucker?”

Timothy indicated with his eyes that he’d like the trophy put back on the window ledge. The sun had already set. He managed to raise the bed until he was at a 45-degree angle and then closed his eyes.

Tania found my skates after we got married. I don’t know why I kept them. They were too small six months after I won that trophy. The leather had gotten moldy. I told her she should toss them; it wasn’t as if they could be bronzed like baby shoes.

Timothy Tucker’s eyes blinked twice and his head rolled to the side. The aide felt for a pulse, noted the time and then called the desk.

Comments are closed.