It’s a marvelous contraption, this bed. It’s nearly the largest thing in the room, but it’s wheeled and moves as we need it to.
Its undercarriage is like a carnival ride I rode once, with folding steel arms and hydraulic lifts. It’s got a brake pedal that you can set or release with your foot. The ride I’m remembering was at the county fair. It was April and unusually warm. As much as the ride itself I remember the man running the tilt-a-whirl. He was grimy and his shirt sleeves flapped at his wrists because he’d lost the buttons there. He propped one boot against the ride’s engagement lever and struck a match for his cigarette. He looked bored and mean. He kicked the lever that started the tilt-a-whirl creaking and suddenly I was afraid to be in his power. He had taken pleasure in that kick.
The bed’s rails move up and down easily. All the parts are well maintained. It serves so well that after a while you nearly forget about it, even though it dominates the room. Only one thing in the room is larger.
The pressure-relieving air mattress adjusts and responds to body weight to prevent sores. As the patient shifts, the bed’s onboard compressor groans in reaction to the new position.
While my father washes in the shower, my mother and I take care of the bed. We snap fresh sheets on and iron them smooth with our quick hands. We’re good at this one thing we can do. We put on the pad and stuff the pillows into clean cases.
My father returns, and the bed, the white efficient bed, moans and accepts him. The gears notch and whir and his illness once again takes us. The tilt-a-whirl man exhales a plume of smoke and looks away carelessly into the night sky.