Greetings, fellow indie writers and readers! I am Beem Weeks, author of the historical fiction/coming-of-age novel JAZZ BABY and SLIVERS OF LIFE: A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES. My goal in life is to promote the indie movement to the world. I can be found on Twitter @VoiceOfIndie and @BeemWeeks. I enjoy indie films, loud music, and a well told story. Lansing, Michigan, USA.
Slivers Of Life
I don’t know why I even bother. It’s not like we were ever close. You failed me when Dad died. You failed me and Jeffrey. But Jeffrey’s the smart one. He knew to get out before it fell apart, before we (you) lost our home, after we (you) squandered Dad’s savings—Dad’s, because you never worked a day in your life—and his meager life insurance benefits.
“That’s not cream, Mom,” I tell you yet again, as you stir a tablespoon of margarine into your coffee.
You eye me with that curious suspicion you’ve mastered in recent months. “And who are you again?” you ask.
It’s the disease, I remind myself. “I’m Carol Ann,” I inform you, “your daughter.”
“Oh!” That’s your only response to something so personal, so deep, so truthful.
I hate you for this—even though it’s not your fault.
Your pale blue eyes no longer shine. They fix on me with unspoken accusation. “I forget things,” you say. “It wasn’t always like this.”
“I know, Mom. It’s called Alzheimer’s.”
“And who decided that?”
You rise from your chair like you mean to let me have one across the face. “Now you listen to me, Miss Lillian Know-it-all, I’m—”
“I told you, I’m Carol Ann.” I rise against you, ready to block the blows you’ve taken to throwing these last few weeks. “Aunt Lillian is dead, Mom.”
It’s there in your confusion, that brief moment of understanding, as if you’re recalling that memory you scarcely spoke of before doctors pronounced you doomed.
“Of course,” you say, settling back into your position of comfort. “I know you’re not her. She’s dead—been so for years.”
“Ten,” I say. “Ten years.”
You draw a sip from your buttered coffee. “Now, who are you again?”
I don’t answer you. Why should I? It’ll only be lost to you the moment I speak.
It returns for a moment, that wisp of remembrance behind your gaze. “There was that boy,” you say, scratching at the dust that has become your memory. “Who was that boy you were always with?—the one with the scar on his chin?”
“Jeffrey,” I remind you. “He’s your son, Mom.”
“And whatever became of him?”
* * *
I’m the one doing the dishes these days. You aren’t capable of even that much anymore. I’m also in charge of the laundry and the cooking and bathing you.
Did you resent me and Jeffrey when we were too young to do these things for ourselves?
Jeopardy blares from the television. It’s still your favorite show. Only now, instead of impressing others with the correct answer to some obscure French Literary question, you yell "ketchup" at the screen when Alex Trebek asks about the last man on the moon.
Jeffrey won’t come to visit. You’re already dead to him, because you no longer recognize him. He can’t handle that. He can’t take not being your favorite anymore.
Yes, favorite. I can say it now without the hurt normally attached to such a notion. Jeffrey and I always understood this fact. He’s the golden boy, the college grad, Dr. Fantastic, the one that did something with his life. Me? I’m just you for a different generation. No college, a miserable marriage, a bored housewife with two kids that could care less if I died tomorrow.
Your voice rises in that irritated way it does when you think everybody is out to get you. “Lillian!” you holler. “I did not give you permission to change the television channel.”
But it is you that has changed the television channel.
“You’re sitting on the remote, Mother,” I explain, reaching beneath you to retrieve the device. “And Lillian is still dead.”
That’s when I see it, that familiar light behind your blue eyes.
“Carol Ann.” You say it with a hushed reverence, as if my name belonged to a favorite martyred saint. “You’ve come to see me.”
The gentleness of your fingers brushing the tear from my cheek stirs recollections of a summer day in 1969, when I’d crashed my bike and, for that afternoon, I felt like your favorite, the way you nursed my scraped knee.
You ask, “Why are you crying, sweetie girl?” The timbre of your voice rings much younger than your seventy-five years.
“Sweetie girl,” I say, repeating the nickname you haven’t used for me in forty years. “You remember, Mom?”
“Of course I remember. You’re my child, Carol Ann.”
It’s a moment that won’t last, so I slip it in where I can. “I love you, Mom,” I whisper, pressing a kiss to your forehead. “I hope you know that.”
But then, just as quick as it comes, it goes. I’m Lillian again—Lillian, your dead sister.
And I resent you again.
Not you, really. I resent the diagnosis. I resent knowing I’ve lost you, that we’ll never be close.
I resent knowing it could happen to me twenty years down the road.
“Lillian’s dead, Mom,” I say, returning to the kitchen. “Lillian’s dead.”
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