Treehouse (Rough Raft)
I am posting this in case something bad happens and I am unable to print my Chemistry project or some crap like that.
By B.A. Baker
I haven’t ever written anything both realistic and serious before to any degree of success; this is my experiment with doing so. I hope it isn’t too clichéd. The jamming in of Chemistry terms (which should be in boldface, as I was not sure if my teacher would be able to see underlinings) may or may not complicate how easily I can write a story that isn’t completely silly.
“Please enter quietly, and do not disturb the other patients. Thank you.”
This was the first time that Mark had actually visited his son at the hospital; almost a full week after he was admitted. The shock simply had not set in for him until now, and he was not even sure if his son would want him to come by at all.
There Daniel lay, unconscious on the hospital bed. Mark knew that he shouldn’t think it, but his first thought was that he looked terrible. If he recalled correctly, Daniel had never even been to the hospital before; seeing him like this should have been unsettling, but it was not. His sleeping face should have reminded him of when he was just a boy, and Mark would tuck him in after a story, but it did not. It only looked like a man in a coma. Mark felt no sadness, even while he was standing right over him. He felt only frustration.
Why Mark greeted Daniel when he knew that he obviously could not hear him, being in such a poor state, was a mystery as well. Maybe these were the stages of grief or something? He did not know. All he knew is that his son was in critical condition, and all he was doing was standing there, making idle one-sided conversation, and that was what upset him the most. Yet he continued to do so.
“I’m… sorry I’m late,” he told Daniel. “I would have come sooner, but… I didn’t. So… uhh… How have you been?” No answer, of course. And he knew how Daniel had been doing. He was such an idiot for even asking that.
He continued. “You… I hope you make it. The doctors aren’t sure what’s wrong with you… but… If there is anything I could have done to help, I sure didn’t do it.” He paused- chuckled a bit. “That’s probably true of most things in your life though. I sure wasn’t the best dad, was I?”
Looking at all of the solutions being injected into Daniel’s body, he thought back to his past life, that of a chemist. He was a fairly successful one, at that, once scoring a high-placing job at a cleaning supplies company. Those were some of the best times of his life at the time, he remembered. The company was, during his tenure at the business, working on new acid and base formulas to help with cleaning floors, dusting, drain pipes, and other household items. It was not hard at all, really. They were trying to achieve a way to combine acids and bases into the products so that, once the cleaning was done, consumers could mix them, causing a neutralization reaction, which would produce safe water as a product. His job was to find the specific equivalent eights of the equivalents of the acids and bases, so that there would be exactly enough Hydrogen and Hydroxide atoms that there would be none left over. This was done simply by finding the normality, or the equivalents per liter of cleaning solution. It was an easy job for any chemist, and he made about $50,000 a year for it. This was a while back, too, as Mark remembered, so that was even more money.
Daniel was probably one of the richer kids in his entire school because of this, which Mark thought should have made his son proud of him. When he was fired in the end, they had enough money saved up that they could be pretty well off until Daniel went to college, and they pretty much were.
“Daniel,” Mark began speaking again. “I really did think you were happy because we were well-off. I worked hard, and earned what I put into my job. I thought that was enough.”
Eventually, he did run into a serious problem with his chemist job, with one product having to be recalled due to a completely inaccurate concentration, being much too powerful. He and his coworkers studied for weeks, looking for any errors in the chemical formulas; Mark was the first to find it, after intense scrutinizing of every aspect. It was almost determined a factory error until Mark found that it was a problem with the very core of the entire formula; there was an assumed standard solution that was incorrect. It was not diluted as much as it was supposed to, and the mass percent of the solute dissolved in the solvent was inaccurate as a result. It ruined the entire product because of one simple miscalculation.
Mark was hailed as a hero to the entire company for this, as he saved them from bankruptcy after investors began selling their stocks after the recall. One more month of their declining stock prices and the company would have been de-listed from the stock market, analysts predicted, but Mark found the error, and they were able to re-release the product to the public. Because of its previous infamy in the media, the new version of the product was widely publicized, and became an instant bestseller as a result. That the promotions and raises Mark received were gratuitous was a vast understatement.
Yet, all of the hours that Mark put into the project of figuring out the solution’s error were not without consequence. During those few weeks of investigation, he put in over 75 hours a week. He did not even go home some nights. He knew Daniel would probably be upset by this, but he was doing it for him, and he knew Daniel would be able to see this. Once they received all the benefits from Mark’s discovery, he would fully understand why his job was so important to him.
“You were just a kid. I didn’t realize it back then, but you were just a kid. You couldn’t have understood.”
The big promotion that Mark was given also meant more hours in the office; it neared 60 a week on average, much more than a regular full-time employee would ever get. The payload was massive, double what he was making before, but this meant that he saw Daniel even less than before. And Daniel resented him for this. When Mark had to work on Christmas Eve because of a massive December 26th rebranding campaign, Daniel wasn’t even upset, because he had already done similar things at his 5th grade graduation ceremony and his whole Fall Break. It was simply normalcy.
It took a long time for Mark to finally realize that he wasn’t spending enough time with his son. It was a fairly warm day in early May when it hit him. Luckily, school was almost done, and he could spend all the time he wanted with Daniel. He tried to think of an activity that they could do together to pass the time in June and July and August, and realized that they should build a treehouse in the backyard. He had one back when he was a kid, and it was a blast to hang out with his friends in every afternoon afterschool.
“C’mon, it’ll be loads of fun!” He had told his son, trying to convince him to join him in this project.
“Dad,” Daniel replied, “Why do I even need a treehouse? I’m already twelve years old. Isn’t it a bit late?”
“Nonsense, Daniel. You are only as young as you feel!”
“Isn’t that what old people say? Not young people? At all?”
“Oh, whatever. You are going to help me build this treehouse, and you are going to like it.”
They started on June 12th. The supplies were easy to come by, and they had more than enough money to afford it. What was difficult was the building itself. Neither of them were particularly construction oriented, as they fumbled around with tools, nearly injuring themselves and each other many times over. But it was fun, for Mark at least.
When the project began to drag on into July, Mark noticed that Daniel was becoming increasingly agitated at him. He wasn’t even sure why. He kept building, all day every day that he was of, and didn’t even notice when Daniel would head back inside after fifteen minutes of working. Finally one day, around July 18th or so, Mark needed Daniel’s help carrying a board, and when he wasn’t around, he went back inside.
“Daniel?” He asked.
“Dad….” Began his son. “I don’t want to build this treehouse anymore. It’s a waste of time. Why don’t you just come back in, and we can watch some TV or something?”
Mark did not reply. He remembered the moment distinctly now, as he looked over his near-death son. It was a life-changing moment for both of them. Nothing particularly dramatic happened, but it destroyed Mark. He continued to work on the treehouse obsessively, even on work days. This eventually cost him his job, but he kept on. He never asked Daniel for assistance again, however.
By October, he realized that he could not finish the treehouse alone. He would tinker with it now and then of the next few years, but it would never be completed in any form; not enough for anyone to go in it. The shell of the treehouse still resided at his house to this day, though it had rotted over the years. Mark never went in the backyard anymore. The treehouse simply frustrated him every time he saw it. But now, it was all he could think about in this hospital.
“Daniel… If you can hear this, I want to ask you that if you come out of this okay… Can we please finish that treehouse?”
He did not reply.
Mark looked over to the IV feeding nutrients to Daniel. It was an aqueous solution, with the nutrients dissolved in water, pumping into his blood to keep him alive. It was unsaturated, as most of the bag had been drained, but the nurse came in and saturated it.
“Visiting hours are over. If you would please start to head out.”
It would be another fifty minutes before he finally did leave. All that time, he sat there, speechless, as if Daniel would eventually answer him. As if he was finally bonding with his son like he tried to do for so long. As if this made up for all that time lost on that treehouse.