by Robert Scotellaro
I work the ICU night shift at St. Mary's, watch one spirit after another drift off (it's different than you might expect), and I wonder if some of the other nurses see them as well, or if I'm the only one with this gift — or curse, depending on how you look at it. Mrs. Nagle's, for instance, slipped out all smoky and shimmering: a chicken strapped to a mule that kicked its wispy hindquarters right out of there, and Mr. Pike's was a gorilla made of sparks teetering across a hanging bridge with several slats missing. But this new guy (right before we put the paddles to him) had a clown climb out with a black cat on his head (pin pricks of blood showing through the grease paint) — two big clodhoppers ready to clomp off, when his heart snapped into normal rhythm and the clown dropped back in. He wakes as I adjust his IV — tell him, You're alright now, but you've had a close shave. "And here I was trying to grow a beard," he quips, his eyes all droopy, and I smile; hold his hand as he drifts off to sleep — the monitor's reassuring beeps, a sweet music. Outside the window snow is falling, and I wish I had a cigarette (keep trying to quit), but wish I had one as I see another — a glittery form this time, sailing away from the wards: a wolf juggling beer bottles, or maybe it's hammers — it's hard to tell through all those big flakes and it's really coming down pretty good now.
Robert Scotellaro's work has appeared or is forthcoming in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Ghoti, VerbSap, 971 Menu, Boston Literary Magazine, The Laurel Review, Red Rock Review, Northeast Journal, The Vagabond Anthology, Macmillan and Oxford University Press collections, and elsewhere. He is the author of several literary chapbooks and the recipient of Zone 3’s Rainmaker Award. He currently lives in California with his wife and daughter.