– Flash Fiction by Michelle Robertson–
The alarm invades my dreams. I open my eyes against the sand and glue trying to keep them shut. Regular nightly alarms are not new, but this one is different. The air feels different. I swing my legs to the side of the bed, subjecting my eyes to the harshness of sleepy fingers. I stand and move away from my bed, stepping out of my room and walking down the hall to Ida’s bedroom. I look in the doorway, not entering so I do not impede the hospice nurse as she begins resuscitation.
1… 2… 3… breathe… 1… 2… 3… breathe
The grandfather clock at the end of the hallway keeps time with the nurse for a few minutes before she looks back at me. I nod. The nurse begins the orderly process of looking at her watch and turning off machines. Walking to the other side of the bed, I hold my grandmother’s frail hand in both of mine. With my thumb I trace her distended vein scarred by IV needles.
The nurse turns and leaves the room. I am left with stilled silence. No more beeps or dings measuring vital time. No more whirls and pumps simulating life. For the first time in months, there is peace in the house and in my life. Relief wells up from my stomach as tension leaves my body. I put my grandmother’s hand back on her chest, and step away with a new lightness. The nurse will make her necessary phone calls. The anxiety of family and funeral calls can wait until the morning.
Outside, I can hear Nathan’s old Toyota pickup downshift to second—engine growling, gears grinding, all the long and winding drive up to the house. I wander out. My uncle Patrick is standing on the porch. I go through the sliding glass doors to join him.
“Is it over?” he asks.
“Good. She was in pain.”
Some thrown rocks, some minor fishtailing, and Nathan hits the straightaway to park among the growing collection of vehicles in the South field. He cuts his headlights. We watch him sit in the dark cabin answering all the family’s group messages.
Ding… Ding… Patrick’s phone blows up with each response.
A bulged gibbous moon spills silver light across the valley. My eyes trace the silhouetted blue evergreens blocking the nearest downhill neighbor and the cow fencing that continues for an acre in each direction. I find myself staring at my grandmother’s prized hydrangeas below.
“Best view this side of town,” Patrick says, leaning against the balcony’s pony wall that forms a solid barrier between the second level deck and the world. “We’ll have to hurry if we want to sell this year. The season is almost finished.”
Nathan steps out into the overgrown grass and slams his door.
“Do you need the money that badly?” I ask.
Patrick doesn’t say a word.
I turn and go down barefoot to meet my half-brother. The cold dew tickles my toes. Patrick casts a shadow from the balcony. Nathan greets me with open arms. Silent, I step into his hug.
“Rest in peace, Ida,” Nathan whispers in my ear.
Michelle Robertson is a freelance writer who lives in Denver, Colorado, where she creates short stories. Michelle has an M.A. in English Literature, and she believes full walls of paperback books make great reading material, tasteful interior design choices, and perfect insulation for drafty brick houses.