Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
Before Our Last Goodbye
by Judith Kelly Quaempts
She's playing solitaire at the kitchen table. Her beautiful silver hair is thin now, a martyr to chemo. She wears a coral turtleneck and lipstick that echoes the sunny color.
Her attention stays on the cards when I take a seat across from her. She speaks to them instead of me.
"Did your sister tell you?"
I nod, though I know she can't see me. I came more than a week ago but now, when I'm about to leave, she brings up what I knew before I arrived.
The chemo isn't working.
She places a red queen on a black king. "You and your sisters will have to decide about your father."
Dad has Alzheimer's and is failing a little more each day, but trying to hold himself together for her sake.
"I'm sorry for that," she says, "but I'm not strong enough to deal with it. I can't bear to think of him among strangers."
I nod again. We are not a family given to words. Control is everything.
"One thing." Now she looks at me. "Wait until your fatherů" Her voice wavers. She struggles, gives up, and leaves the sentence hanging.
I understand. They've been together for sixty-six years. She doesn't want her ashes scattered until they can be mixed with his.
She pushes away from the table and stands. "You have a long drive ahead. I don't want to keep you."
"I'll be back in two weeks," I say.
She wraps me in her arms for a long moment, then steps back and smiles.
On the long drive home I keep seeing the brave little flags of her lips, colored a cheerful coral.
Judith Kelly Quaempts lives and works in Athena, Oregon, a rural eastern Oregon city. Her poetry and short stories appear in various online journals, including Pemmican, The Shine Journal, The Cynic Online Magazine and an upcoming issue (#4)of The Corner Club Press.
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