On the Leeward Side of an Island

A hundred degrees in mid-August just past noon, he finds her tucked into the ravine of the recliner, swathed in chenille and fleece. It’s just where he discovered her yesterday and the day previous. It’s his signal, along with a tiny one ounce container of applesauce nearly empty at her end table. The too silent room is in mild disarray, pet food bowls, empty. Whimpering sifts under the threshold.
She stirs a bit despite his efforts to slide the door shut soundlessly. He always expects to see a wizened face under the coverlets, but she still looks youthful and fakes a wan smile. Her thin, pale façade with slightly comic hair, like a baby duck is sitting on her head, makes him forge a counterfeit smile, too.
“I’m not having such a bad day. Just sort of feeling like watching chicks’ flicks today.” she lies.
If it was a good day, her clunky pink crocs would be piled at the door, just right for tripping over. He misses that. He unpacks groceries and views a slide show in his head of how a good day once looked.
She hears bags crinkling in the kitchen as he sneaks a frozen dinner into the microwave.
“How could you not use canvas bags?” now gasping, “You know how I hate those poly bags.”
She’s gaining steam now. “Don’t microwave that stuff in those horrible black trays, causes cancer you know.” The word rings through the hallway and the dog begins to whine in earnest.
Apparently she is still strong enough to climb into her favorite pulpit. He drops a large Chow Mein ice cube loudly onto a China dish. With the humming microwave masking sounds, he cautiously opens her pill box. He counts and recounts. She’s taken only half her doses for three days.
“I already took all my meds. I just got mixed up on the times.”
And the days and dates. None of these proclamations from the living room burrow are consoling.
Hoarsely now, “The Factory smell seems worse today, sorta acrid and burnt, do you think?”
He thinks that the Factory does not begin operating for 2 more months. She’s suddenly beside him examining the meal.
“This smells like fried dandelions and has the consistency of potting soil!”
That’s his dinner she’s referring to. He pours a coke and spices it liberally with ice and Jack Daniels.
“You shouldn’t drink when you have to go back to work. Someone could notice!”
So, he’ll return to work a little happier than when he left. He sips slowly, staring out at the landscaped rock garden she made just two years ago. It reminds him of Arizona. He loved coming home to the house smelling of hot tamales or curried rice. She stares out too, “Tomorrow will be better. A lousy day is almost always followed by an energetic day.”
“By energetic, you mean what exactly?” He instantly loathes himself, wishing he was a mute; words snap out so cutting and cruel.
Defensively, “Maybe, I’ll sit on the patio bench and toss the ball for Barkley.”
Pause. Blink. Tomorrow
She can’t change the timing, the costs, the insidious nature of disease, the growing frailty. She’s become their friends. They’re now befriending her.
The swishing of the lemon scented soap in the dishwasher makes ocean-foamy sounds, he dreams of salty, seasoned lands. He can wait. He will go one day.
And, too, will she.

2 comments

  1. AWE.SOME. I could see, smell, taste, and feel everything in this piece. What a scene… a couple of moments, but really, a whole life. ****mcb****

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