The following is a work of original short fiction. It was not written during my 5 to 6am blogging time. This takes me a little longer. I enjoy the writing, but then they simply sit in the computer and I thought if I started a monthly series, it would encourage me to write more.
Prospects and Age by mfptkd
The old woman sits upright, propped by the bed itself, looking out the small screened window. They had argued with her over the room, there being barely space for the narrow hospice pallet, small side table and solitary visitor’s chair. Larger, seemingly more comfortable, rooms with views of the courtyard garden, had been available, but she stubbornly insisted, her chosen vista the parking lot and traffic laden freeway. They believe she is attempting to defray cost but in truth the garden view fills her with abhorrence. It is a painting, pretty enough, but static, unused, and unchanging. She prefers waking up to rush hour, noisily crowded and alive even through the closed window, imagining where they are all going and how many of them will arrive where they want, everyone in such a hurry.
While a little girl, all eyes and questions, her family moves to the city where her father finds work. She is too small to make sense of the tall buildings. They blur into the sky, but automobiles being scarce on the farm, traffic is a constant wonder. There are so many cars. She peers out her apartment window and keeps a tally throughout the day. Her father comes home late but always in time to say goodnight and ask her the count. She dutifully reports, sometimes even breaking it down by color or time of day.
Then she asks him, “Where are they all going?”
He always answers “Peoria, hurrah!”
And they both laugh as he kisses her goodnight.
There is not much traffic this morning, but a broken down school bus empties out a score of excited students, field trip interrupted. The teacher and bus driver appear irritated but the children jostle each other jokingly and wave at the oncoming cars and encourage the truckers to sound their horns. She is thankful for her eyesight. A fit of coughing overwhelms her and she is thankful for oxygen but still a little resentful and then guilty because she knows she has been fortunate in health. She has not been here very long, while some have been for years, no hope of getting better, deteriorating ever so slowly. It began as inconvenient chest cold she couldn’t quite shake. It lingered and tired her, but then she was almost 90 years old and it was to be expected. She thought, perhaps, she was developing allergies or asthma. The doctor spelled out the lung cancer diagnosis so slowly and carefully she had been compelled to comfort him. The disease quickly laid waste to her other internal systems but still she is thankful. She knows who she is and who she was. By noon, she can see the heat in a haze rising from the pavement. She is thankful for air conditioning.
The summer after they marry is almost unbearably hot. They move into an old farmhouse shaded by a giant willow tree. For a few years, theirs is the only house in existence in what eventually becomes a neighborhood and then a suburb. At dusk, still too warm to sleep indoors, they take a blanket outside, laying down under the arc of the branches. A window through the leaves allows them the moon on its journey and the waking stars upon each of which they wish for a cool breeze. They talk a little of the day and much of tomorrow.
He reaches for her and she shrugs him off saying, “It’s too hot.”
“Never” he responds taking her arm, slowly creating a cooling trail with his breath beginning at her wrist, traveling along the inside of her arm, over the edge of her collarbone to the curve of her neck, until she shivers.
Before dinner, the young doctor stops in for a chat. He is not her physician, but the son of an old family friend who happens to have patients here. He checks on them periodically during the week. She followed his growing up through his mother’s stories, holidays, picnics, graduations and weddings. He came initially out of duty to his parents, but visits now out of enjoyment and friendship. He is surprised and interested by her observations. He understands about the window. This evening, he can see the strain when she talks and breathes, telling of the broken bus. He recommends she rest and let him tell the stories for a change.
She is in the kitchen, slamming things around to ward off crying. She can see her husband over the open counter, sitting at the dining room table, holding his graying head in his hands. The children and grandchildren left that morning. She had finally felt happy again during their visit. Now, the sadness rushed back in and she had snapped at him and he had uncharacteristically snapped back.
She walks around to him and offers a truce. “I vote that for once we skip the apologies, explanations, and couple analysis entirely, agree that we were both wrong and right at the same time and move straight on to making up.”
He barks out a laugh but then asks her, “Will that really make it better?”
She bites her lower lip. “Why do love me?”
He is taken aback. “It’s been twenty seven years and you have never asked me that before.”
“I thought I knew.”
He looks up right into her eyes. “You are an infuriating mass of contradictions and you never fail to surprise me.”
“That is not very sensible.” She admonishes.
“I thought we were talking about love.” He responds.
And then she truly smiles.
The old woman opens her eyes, surprised that it is already dark outside. The doctor is still sitting next to her, gently holding her wrist. It seems right to her that he is there even though it is late.
She pats his hand and asks softly, “Do you remember him at all? My husband?”
“I’ve heard stories and seen photographs, but he died when I was very young.”
She smiles and pats his hand again. “It’s good. I’m ready to be with him again.”
Before closing her eyes she looks out the window and sees, extending past the freeway, into the neighborhood beyond, the glittering light from thousands of windows in row after row of houses. She is glad and thankful for their shining and knows that from one of them, someone is looking out and is glad and thankful for hers.