My first short story to share with you, as it originally appeared in The Alzheimer’s Reading Room.
Perhaps today would afford him the chance to make it past the front gate and down the deserted blacktop to a new day, to a new life where his own needs occasionally came first.
When the day began, and he opened up his eyes, he could see through all the lies that the night had promised. The little rest he accrued in fitful, scattered doses had not rejuvenated his weary soul, and at 4:00 a.m., grudgingly tossing aside the covers and slinging his legs to the floor, he wondered if there would ever come a day he’d feel ahead of the game.
He looked up for an answer. God was still asleep. On a Sunday.
The workouts at the gym—the whole reason for waking up at such an ungodly hour—had not come to pass. Time after time, attempts to steal away before being pulled into everyone’s suffocating needs had proven futile. His body craved the endorphins; he lived exhausted.
Sis was on the couch in deep slumber, as well as Mom in her room, and if his plan worked, then he’d be back before the rooster’s reveille and they’d still be asleep, none the wiser.
Mom would be okay with that. If she arose for the day and he was gone … well … she’d panic, that’s all there was to it. Even with Sis there, it was always him she wanted.
Blowing a heavy sigh and with much reserve, he barely dared to hope. Perhaps today would afford him the chance to make it past the front gate and down the deserted blacktop to a new day, to a new life where his own needs occasionally came first.
As he gulped his coffee and quickly changed into sweats, his thoughts toyed with the idea of breaking free from the yoke that weighed heavily on his shoulders—if not but for an hour. Maybe, as he neared the facility, he’d glance over at the flashing neon light that read, “Open 24 hours,” and keep driving …never look back… never look back … but that was something he could never do.
A click of the bathroom switch pricked up his ears and he quickly hushed, barely breathing, wondering if she was up for the day or merely relieving herself.
A … lengthy … pause.
The light crawling from the bottom crack retreated; he sat frozen in the solitary glow of his cigarette.
Then the door opened and her dog bounced out, shaking his head and jingling his tags, bringing sounds of Christmas to a home that hungered joy.
“I need a back pill,” she groaned.
He led her to her chair and quickly went for one. “Here you go.” She held her palm out and looked up, weak and vulnerable from the road her body had traveled, wearing the tattered remnants of seventy years. Placing the white oval pill in her hand and gently closing her fingers, he leaned in and whispered, “I’ll get you some water and a cup of coffee.”
A kiss on her cheek. A smile on her face. It was all worth it.
As he filled his mother’s favorite mug—the only one she would use—he looked at his own, now in the sink, empty. Reaching to pick it up, he hesitated, allowing his gaze to wander to the front gate … then reluctantly put it on the counter and poured a second cup.
The cuckoo clock warbled a weak 4:30. Time to wake up God.