THE FLASHING LIGHTS, the cold night air, the smell of the oxygen mask.
The paramedic looked almost as worried as Daniel and Janine. He gave Norm a stressed grin.
"Hold on, sir."
Norm smiled back. He knew something, somehow. He couldn't put his finger on it. It was new, something he had learned during the last few seconds. It changed everything.
He tried to remember what it was, but couldn't. All he could remember was the gig, the pain, the paramedic, Daniel and Janine...
"Hold on a second, Em. What is it, Dad?"
Daniel reappeared, over the paramedic's shoulder. He was holding a cell phone. Norm looked at it, puzzled. The phone was part of it—part of this enormous thing that he had learned and couldn't remember, but which changed everything anyway.
"You remember that trick I taught you... The one with your thumb and finger?"
Daniel laughed, in spite of his gleaming eyes.
"When I had to have stitches in my head that time?"
"The one my father taught me."
"Yeah, Dad. I remember. Have you been using that tonight?"
Daniel shook his head affectionately.
"Did it work?"
"There's something else... Important..."
"About the thumb and finger trick?"
"I knew a moment ago..."
"Just rest, Dad."
"Something... It changes everything..."
"Tomorrow, Dad. You can tell me..."
"Daniel, you know I love you... love you all..."
"How could we not know that, Dad?"
Daniel was crying, trying not to show it.
"We all love you, too, Dad."
Norm gathered his strength. It was difficult to talk. For some reason he thought about Junior, his grandson.
"Take good care of Junior, Daniel."
"Of course, Dad. He's my son."
"Even when he's older. He'll be fine in the end. I know it."
"Dad. He's okay. Really. You've been dreaming or something."
The paramedic looked up.
"He should rest."
"Dad, I'm on the phone with Emily. We can talk later."
"Tell her... Tell her I..."
"She knows, Dad. And you can tell her. In a few days when you're..."
His voice was fading.
And the light.
Then Norm knew what he wanted so desperately to say.
"What is it?"
"Tell them all. Tell them it's okay."
"What, Dad? What's okay?"
He searched for the words. Couldn't find any better. And the light was fading fast.
He slumped back.
"Everything's all right," he managed. "Everything is all right."
And he was.