issue thirty-four

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(465 words)
Dick Bentley

       Brenda knows she is not in her own house, but she doesn't dare ask where she is. She has lived in her house for fifty years, but this is not her house and this is not her furniture and that isn't Dorothy, her daughter, sitting by the window.

But Brenda is so often "herself" that she knows these episodes will pass. When she looks in the mirror, her appearance is unchanged; she has the same striking looks that she had in 1957 or 1967. In every respect she finds herself in good health. Her daughter comes to visit every other week. She doesn't go into Boston anymore, but everything she needs is right here. She used to go to the symphony regularly and shop and go to the Fine Arts Museum, but it has been a long time.

"It's been years," she says to her daughter. Yes, that's Dorothy sitting in a chair by the window.

"No, it hasn't been years," Dorothy says. "We went to the symphony two weeks ago."

"Oh, of course." Brenda corrects her mistake but does not recall the visit.

Lately she's been having trouble with her balance.

There were always flowers in her house to inspect and admire. She worshiped their fragrance. Then one day she fell. She was leaning over the dining room table -- the fragrance -- and she suddenly felt as if she were on a cruise ship with the floor rising and dipping. She hit her arm against the edge of the table and opened a long gash. She went to the emergency room and saw her regular doctor afterward. He told her she wasn't blinking properly and that she had a slight tremor. She remembers it well. "How does one blink properly?" she said, laughing. He laughed along with her and apologized, but perhaps he did not use the term "blinking."

Well, she thinks, age doesn't come slowly. It breaks over you like a hurrying wave. One moment you remember everyone's name, and then you can't. One day you look at yourself in the mirror and the next day you look different. Overnight, two distinct lines may appear at the corners of your mouth, and the backs of your hands look like a landscape on Mars.

She sees the woman sitting by the window. There seems to be a danger around her. "Who are you, may I ask?"

"I'm Dorothy," the young woman says. Brenda closes her eyes without meaning to. She has heard her daughter's voice before. Now she hears it in such a way that Brenda knows she has finally been accepted. It is her proud right to endure and to protest.


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This work is copyrighted by the author, Dick Bentley. All rights reserved.