She was taken to hospital at 4:03am on a Tuesday morning. It was raining, but not heavily, and would later clear up to mostly sunshine with a slight nor-wester. Jerry had written all these things down in his diary with an immaculate script (he'd won the school's penmanship award in his final year) and utmost precision, as he had done every day for the past 56 years. He noted later that her time of death had been recorded as 4:40am in the hospital records, not very long after the ambulance must have arrived at the hospital because Jerry himself was there at 4:32am. He'd taken a while to find the right place to park, the signs were hard to read in the dark, and then he had to find his way again from the carpark to the emergency department. He'd been asked to wait for a little bit by the lady at reception, and after a while a doctor (was it a doctor? He found it hard to tell these days, they all looked the same, dressed the same, but Jerry was sure the young lady, a child really, had introduced herself as a doctor) asked if he could come with her please, and walked him to an empty cubicle and offered him a chair. She pulled the curtain, and sat on the bed next to his chair, and told him that Dot had died, they'd done everything they could, and was there someone she could call for him? A nurse would be in shortly to take him over to see her if he'd like, and she was very sorry for his loss. He wasn't sure what was expected of him in this kind of a situation, hadn't much thought about it before, and Dot was a private woman, even, especially, to him, he wasn't sure she'd like for him to see her all broken and empty. The doctor patted his hand and said it might be good for him to say goodbye, and then she left. His watch said 4:58 am.
There was no-one to call. Jerry only had one brother, and he'd died the year earlier; Dot was an only child. They'd not had children together, and the baby that Dot had given birth to in her teens had been taken from her before she'd even really seen it. She'd gotten a glimpse as they pulled him out and wrapped him up, said his head was covered in thick dark hair and he cried strong and loud and like he didn't want to leave her either. A nurse had told Dot later, when she saw her crying, that the baby would be grateful to her for giving him the chance of a decent life, and Dot, his quiet, gentle, Dot, had slapped that nurse in the face and screamed so hard for so long that orderlies were called in to hold her down so the doctor could sedate her. Jerry had met her ten years after this, and she had told him about it just the once, after their third date when he'd started making noises about how high his esteem was for her, how she was the sort of woman he'd like to devote a life-time to. He'd been surprised at first, but not shaken in his admiration. She was staring out the car window as she talked about it, her face hard and resolved to his reaction, and after he'd thought for a while he'd taken her hand and said, you're a good woman, Dot, and an honest one too. They were married at the registry office six months later.
He thought she'd blame him when it became clear they couldn't have babies together, but she never did. Perhaps it's for the best, was all she'd say, and didn't she have enough to do with looking after him? She didn't though, he'd seen her scrub a bath clean that had only been scrubbed days earlier, and every winter she'd spend her evenings knitting booties and bonnets and vests and cardigans to be donated to the local charity shop run by the Anglican church. He'd pop in every once in a while and buy some that he would later discard in the rubbish bin outside his office building, and he always felt guilty about it, felt like he was betraying her in some unforgiveable way, but he'd heard from Mr. Drummond, a client of his whose wife managed the charity shop, that no-one really wanted handknit baby things anymore and they were having trouble selling enough to keep up with the amount that Dot made. He couldn't bring himself to suggest that she might make less, or find another place to give them to, couldn't bring himself to do anything but help her carry on as she always had. The women in the shop never asked him what he was going to do with them, just bagged them up and took his cash, and if Dot ever found out, she never told him either. A conspiracy of silence. He stopped being able to afford it quite as easily once he'd retired, but Dot's hands had grown stiff with arthritis by then anyway, and she struggled to make half of what she once could.
Another young woman popped her head around the hospital curtain. Mr Maskin, is it? He nodded yes, and she smiled kindly, said her name was Jennifer and she could take him to see his wife now. Dot, he replied, she's Dot, but Jennifer had already gone too far ahead of him to hear. She waited at the cubicle where Dot was, and ushered him inside. She's a beautiful woman, Mr Maskin, Jennifer said, looks so peaceful doesn't she? Jerry didn't answer. He wasn't sure what she looked like. Not exactly herself. He remembered the teeth in the bag he was carrying that he had taken from Dot's nightstand as soon as the ambulance had left, she hated to be seen by anyone without them. He took them out of the bag to show Jennifer, to ask if she could help him put them in, but he started to cry instead. Jennifer squeezed his arm, took the teeth out of his hands and said, us ladies do like to look our best don't we? He nodded, and she spent a minute fixing everything into place, and there was his Dot after all. Dorothy Elizabeth Maskin. His beloved wife, somebody's mother. He suddenly became distressed that the boy wouldn't know that his mother had died, that it wasn't right, that he should do something to find him, to tell him.
A different nurse, Helen this time, brought him a cup of tea, told him all the things that would happen next, what he needed to do, asked if she could call him a taxi to take him home. They'd be taking his wife away soon, he should go and get some rest for a few hours. Thank you, he replied, he'd drive himself, very kind of you. He stood up to go, covered Dot's hand with his own. My girl, he whispered. Goodnight, my girl.
The rain had cleared up by the time he left the hospital, though the streets were still quite wet. He drove slowly through the early morning traffic, checked twice at each set of lights before he moved through, navigated his place in the road as carefully as he could. He noticed the porchlight was still on when he turned into the driveway, though it wasn't needed anymore. So many things weren't needed anymore. He climbed up the steps to the front door, fumbled for his keys, made his way down the hall, and collapsed into the safety of his armchair. He wasn't sure if he would ever get up again. It was 6:17 am.