There were two men, both seriously ill, sharing the same room in a great hospital. It was quite a small room, just large enough the pair of them... two beds, two bedside lockers, a door opening on the hall, and one window looking out on the world.
As part of his treatment, John was allowed to sit up in bed for an hour in the afternoon (something to do with draining fluid from his lungs). It was his bed that was next to the window. But Pete had to spend all his time flat on his back... and both of them had to be calm and motionless. No reading, no radio, certainly no television... nothing that might cause excitement.
They had to stay quiet and still... just the two of them. They would talk in hushed tones for hours and hours... about their wives, their children, their homes, their jobs, their hobbies, their childhood, what the did during the war, and where they'd been on vacations.
Every afternoon John, propped up in his bed, would pass the time by describing what he could see outside. And Pete began to live for those moments. The window overlooked a park, with a lake where there were ducks and swans. Children threw them bread and sailed model boats, and young lovers walked hand in hand beneath the trees. There were flowers and stretches of grass, games of softball, people taking their ease in the sunshine and right at the back, behind the fringe of trees, there stood a stunning view of the city skyline.
Pete would listen to all of this, enjoying every minute... how a child nearly fell into the lake, how beautiful the girls were in their summer dresses, how exciting the ball game, or charming the little boy playing with his puppy. It got to the place that he could almost see what was happening outside. Then one summer afternoon when there was a parade going by, the thought struck him... why should John have all the pleasure of seeing what was going on? Why shouldn't he have a chance?
He felt ashamed and tried not to think like that, but the more he tried, the worse he wanted a change. He'd do anything to get by the window. In a few days he had turned sour. He brooded and couldn't sleep, making his physical condition even worse... which none of the doctors could understand. One night as Pete stared at the ceiling, John suddenly woke up, coughing and choking, With the fluid congesting in his lungs, his hand groped for the button that would bring the night nurse running.
Pete watched without moving to call or help. John's coughing racked the darkness... on and on until finally it chocked off. The sound of breathing stopped... and Pete kept staring at the ceiling. In the morning the day nurse came in with water for their baths and found John dead. They took his body away quietly... no fuss.
As soon as it seemed decent, Pete asked if he could be transferred to the bed next to the window. Moved over and tucked in, he was left alone to be quiet and still. The minute the staff was gone, he propped himself up on one elbow. It was a painful and laborious procedure but it would be worth it to look out through the glass and see all this beauty for himself.
His beloved window faced a blank wall.