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Part 9: Why the Willow Weeps
by Jonathan Shute

"You took quite a spill, old man, you'd probably better stay on the bench."

"You're probably right."

Fred felt different now. His aches and pains accompanied him to the dreamscape this time and the illusion of his youthful self in the vibrant park was clouded over.
He doubted that he could summon the strength to get up off of that bench even if his pants were on fire.

"Why are you always muttering about Janie when you pass back and forth? Who's Janie?"

"Janie's my nurse, she's a wonderful girl. You've never told me your name, young man. I'd turn to make a proper introduction but..."

Fred tried to crane his neck around and have a look over his shoulder at the boy but was interrupted by a jolt of pain from his waking world. His vision of the park
and the willow's branches reflecting in the lake became blurry, then black. He opened his eyes and he was right back in the hospital, his loyal nurse fast asleep in
the wheelchair beside his bed, tortured nerves screaming their objection to the fading opiates. He reflexively reached for the little red button and clicked it
furiously until that world fell away and the other returned.

"Your neck hurts don't it?" Fred could see that the boy was swinging his feet playfully in his periphery. "The cancer's about finished its run. You'll die soon enough
old man."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence. If I could turn around I'd stick my tongue out at you. Do you have a name, or should I just call you sunshine?"

"Jason." The boy's feet stopped swinging. "Dying ain't nearly so hard as living. Your nurse's name isn't Janie either, it's Janice. She's my sister."

"Your sister? Janie told me that she didn't have any family."

"I died a long time ago, fell out of a tree just like this one and broke my neck. I came to talk to you because you're Janice's only friend. Did you know that?"

"I sort of got that impression. A pretty girl like your sister should be out kicking up her heels, not wasting her time on a lost cause like me."

The boy resumed swinging his legs back and forth at a happy tempo and Fred could turn his head slowly and just about see the kid's face as he spoke.

"She sees me in your eyes, old man. She doesn't understand how but some part of her knows that you've been with me. When you die she'll lose me too so she's
scared to see you go."

"Will I come back to this park when I die?"

"If you'd like. You won't be stuck on that bench either. Your wife is here already but you knew that didn't you?"

"Yes I did. I saw this place when she was dying; the willow tree and the lake exactly like this."

"The willow was trying to tell you a secret when the cancer took your wife but you weren't listening. It told me the same thing on the day that I fell and I tried to
tell Janice but she was bawling so hard I don't think she ever heard me."

A part of Fred's conscious mind was intact in his dreamscape because he had the good sense to question these visions and the nature of this place. He knew that the
pain medication could trigger hallucinations but if asked to decide which was the real deal, the park in his mind was the obvious choice. The colors were so much 
more vivid in the dream world and his thoughts had a singular clarity and sense of calm certitude.

"The willow weeps because it's busting to break the big news but nobody ever listens."

"I'm listening now."


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