The Way you Play It A Short Story
The freeway exit sign I was watching for appeared before I could come up with an honest reason for not exiting. More than anything, I wanted to veer out of the “exit only” lane and continue on my trip home. I shrank from this visit to my friend. The frightening country of cancer was unfamiliar territory to me. Could I contain my sympathy or would I embarrass myself and Lois by being overemotional? I wanted to offer my friend solace, not more distress. And what could I say to her? I had no clue. For that reason I’d brought with me something I hoped would both serve to provide a little entertainment and avoid moments of uncomfortable silence. I resolutely tapped the brake with the toe of my high heel and turned off the freeway exit to continue to the apartment of Lois’s brother, where she was staying to be near her doctors and medical resources.
My hand trembled slightly as I knocked on the door. From inside, a transparent, but lilting, voice called, “Come in. It’s unlocked.” I stepped from the glaring afternoon sun into the dimness of the apartment. The heavy curtains were drawn and the air conditioner hummed a cooling mantra. I had known Lois’s brother Jeremy would be at his office. She sat alone in a rented hospital bed in the center of the living room, surrounded by the paraphernalia of a sick person whose daily furnishings include only those that support survival, comfort and distraction.
Goodbye Paolo A Short Story
Her face was wet against a light mist blown by the yawing wind. The moaning of the gusts through the sea caves below the cliffs sounded eerie and for an unguarded moment she could imagine Paolo now, from somewhere above watching her dodge the gorse thorns hemming in the narrow path which clawed at her red tights.
“You look like Santa Claus,” he would have said.
“I hope you mean the color of my tights” she countered in her thoughts.
“You remember how we loved to walk by the ocean,” she could imagine him saying. He’d been such a romantic.
“I do,” she though, wistfully.
All the good memories still could seem like a big bag of anchors, holding her back from moving on.
“But you would never have worn those silly red tights. You always looked beautiful for me, and I enjoyed showing you off.”
She did remember. When they would pass a man whose eyes swept over her she would feel Paolo draw her arm tighter through his, and nothing more would have to be said.
“Don’t talk to me about what was. This wasn’t my idea, it was Claire’s,” she insisted, angry that Paolo’s wife had sent her a portion of his ashes, against her wishes and despite her insistence that the ashes should go to his family. Was the woman trying to punish her for the past, something that taken place long before Claire and Paolo had met?
“Why are you bringing me here?”
“I didn’t know where else. You’re supposed to sprinkle the ashes of the beloved in a place where the beloved has been most happy—I guess.”
“Obviously you couldn’t have them mussing up your bed,” he would most certainly have said in a relishing tone that hinted at the physical passion that had once consumed them.
Powder Burns A Prizewinning Short Story
Out on the driveway, he paused for a moment, finding himself closed in by thick, wet darkness. He’d never gone out this early. Usually by the time the guys were on the trail daylight would be breaking. Realizing he’d forgotten the flashlight, he decided not to bother.
He chuckled at the visual of Gerry rattling his coke can filled with pebbles at the occasional coyote that loped across the golf cart trail on their morning walks. One coyote didn’t bother Frank, but they ran in packs on the course, and he never trusted more than one at a time. He went back into the garage and got his 7 iron. It had worked on that vicious swan that had attacked their golf foursome last spring during the nesting season. He had picked up a game with a group that day, but they hadn’t invited him to join them since. Frank was sure they were afraid they were going to get involved in a hassle with the golf course commissioner over the extermination of one mean male swan. As Frank saw it, the swan wasn’t paying golf course dues and fees.
His footsteps echoed loudly on the sidewalk. The only light was at the intersection a half block away. Its light was filtered through the heavy cloak of tree branches, making a peppered pattern of dim light on the sidewalk. This late into the night the solar lights bordering driveways had dimmed to almost nothing. Frank felt a sudden chill, and thought maybe it was too early, after all, to start out. He looked around, expecting a couple coyotes—or a javelina to appear out of the dark. Hadn’t seen one of those for months, but they were around.
Desert Palms Senior Retirement community was on the western edge of the Phoenix suburbs, and surrounded by wide open desert. Who knew what was stalking around out there at night? Desert animals came into the community when driven by the need for water or food. Some of the neighbor women insisted they’d seen a bobcat running through the green belt behind their houses. Female hysterics. Still, he thought it would be kind of neat to see one of those bobcats trying to bring down a coyote—or a javelina? He imagined those little tusked bastards could put up an entertaining fight.
As he veered across the lawn in front of the clubhouse, it was still so dark the golf cart path was barely distinguishable from the pitch black greens.
The Best Tomatoes A Short Story
At first glance anyone would have thought Amelia a bit outlandish, wide-brimmed straw hat heaped with garish silk flowers bobbing on her gray head as she tottered along in tired high heels. Her lips, puckered with age wrinkles, were painted Cindy Crawford red and she had clutched between her body and one elbow, beneath a stooped osteoporotic shoulder, a patent leather clutch bag of an outdated style one could find on sale in a thrift store. But in this dim corridor of the convalescent home where my mother lived, lined with wheelchairs occupied by birds with lackluster feathers, Amelia’s brilliant plumage was a fresh breath of hope. Clusters of residents shuffling along in walkers were forewarned by the sound of her high heels rapping along the main hallway, and those in her path parted like the Red Sea.
She and I met coming from opposite sides of the reception area to exit the building. A field of electricity seemed to surround her, the air fairly crackling with her energy.
“Good morning,” I greeted her. “What a wonderful hat!”
“Thank you, dear. I’m on my way to the market. They have the best tomatoes,” she proclaimed. A small net bag of the type my grandmother used to carry home her purchases from the green grocer’s hung on Amelia’s arm.
My first thought was to wonder why she should be shopping for groceries when the retirement home cooked all meals and served them to residents in the community dining room. My second was for the woman’s safety. From my observations, most of the elderly who lived here were confined to beds or wheelchairs, their immobility protecting them from confused wandering. I waited for a moment after she breezed ahead of me out the front door, expecting the security alarm to be triggered by a security bracelet.
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