Little Dove by Shelley Crowley

I look away so he can’t see me crying but I know there’s no point. My voice is all wobbly even when I don’t have tears in my eyes. 

“It’s okay,” says Sammy and he sounds so strong it’s killing me. I have to sit down. I cover my face. Angela is still beside him holding his hand. I look to her and her eyes are wet but she’s fixed her face into a stoic mask. She looks down at our son and he’s smiling up at her from his bed reassuringly. “This is my decision.” 

Yes, it is his decision. But we’ve agreed to it. I can’t help feeling guilty even though it’s the nicest option for our son. 

I want to be there for him. I want him to know we’ll be okay when he’s gone but I’m a mess inside. He’s only eleven years old. Eleven fucking years old and he has to make this decision. But I understand why he’s being so level-headed about this. He’s barely lived long enough to know what he’ll be missing out on. His first kiss. His first love. His first job. His first car. His wedding day. It’s all being taken from him. 

He’s such an enthusiastic kid. He’ll always give something a go. Football. Piano. Boxing. Baking. He’s a good artist. His drawings are all over the fridge. And they’re not there begrudgingly. They’re actually good. He’s talented. Even at six years old, we had all our limbs in the right places in our family portrait. He even got my beard right and gave me my beer belly. He’s a cheeky little bugger. But I can never be mad at him for long. He has that way about him. He’s never struggled with making friends. He’s charismatic. My sister said he’d be a heartbreaker when he’s older. He’s breaking my heart right now. 


I wipe my hand down my face and look at him. He’s so pale and fragile but his eyes sparkle like they always have. 

“Will you be okay finishing the shed without me?” 

That does it. I break down. He wraps his arms around me and I feel all his tubes tugging and getting caught but he squeezes me tight. I open my mouth to try and say something nonchalant and witty but I just end up blubbering into his hospital gown. When I collect myself a little bit and it’s not so hard to breathe, I pull away. When I look back at his face, there are red rings around his eyes. 

Angela is sitting on the bed beside him. She puts her hand on Sammy’s shoulder. “Your dad has never liked hard work but that’s a bit over the top.” 

We all laugh but it’s just hiding all our hurt. It’s shaky and sticky and we all end up crying. Angela hugs him and so do I, being careful not to crush him and bring him anymore pain. “I love you so much,” I manage to get out and stroke his duckling fuzz hair. “I love you too, dad.” 

Angela kisses him hard on the forehead. “Love you, darling.” 

“I love you, mum. Sorry for leaving you with him.” 

She laughs. “I’ll whip him into shape, don’t you worry.” 

The door opens and the doctor pokes her head through. “Is everyone ready?” What a weighted question. This whole situation suddenly seems far too casual for what’s about to happen. A burning hatred explodes in my heart for the doctor but I know she’s done nothing wrong. 

Angela and I look to Sammy. He smiles at the both of us and I know it’s just for us - to make this seem less terrifying. 

I grab him by the back of the neck and kiss him hard on his temple. I close my eyes and try to savour the feeling. His skin. His breathing. His heartbeat. His smell. 

He looks to the doctor and nods. 

We stand at the side of his bed. I’m holding Angela and I can feel her shaking. Or maybe it’s me. 

The doctor comes in and I see the syringe and it’s all just too real. 

Published in Issue #19

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