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.

Twenty-sixth Flash

American Mind Over Matter by Mary Glatz
Airport Calls by M.e. Mitchell
Unfinished Dream by Patrice Garrett
Words by Jo Lauer
Orange by Cypress Ducayne
Christmas Spirit by Kay Butzin
Clarity by Fran Claggett
Scent Thief by Carol J. Howard
Somewhere Over Nunavut by Alison Timmons
Noblesse Oblige by Mimi Peel Roughton
Shady Grove by Catherine Montague
Stitches by Andrea Marcusa

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