In Sight of Mount Monadnock
The first thing you said, when I leaned down to embrace you, was, "You
Smiling, you lifted a hand above your head and tucked it beneath your
pillow, so that your bent arm looked like a wing.
Then you said, "I never knew dying was as hard as giving birth."
When you inhaled, it sounded like you were drawing oxygen up through
deep water. Your exhalations were exhausted grunts, the kind of noise
you'd make putting down a heavy object. I sat on a chair beside your
bed and you shifted your position to face me, wincing as you moved.
You asked about my children. Your own had arrived earlier in the day,
summoned by their father. They would take turns sleeping beside you
through the night, but for now you and I were alone, two sisters
through marriage, the 'out-laws' as we called ourselves.
"Was it like this for your mother?" you asked.
I nodded and you nodded in response, as though we were in agreement on
an important but undisclosed issue.
I don't remember the last thing you said to me. It was something about
coffee, I think, or raspberries—something about taste and
pleasure. Then you closed your eyes. When I thought you had fallen
asleep, I slipped my fingers under the hand that lay curled on the
bedspread, like something you had already left behind. Your skin was
cool and dry.
I turned to the window and looked out at the empty laundry line, which
you had erected, years before, in view of the mountain. I watched the
loose cords sway, first toward the barn, then toward the frozen garden,
rocked by an inaudible wind.
Inside, the effort of your breathing filled the room.
I thought and then said aloud, in case you could hear me, "I know how
hard you're working."
I could think of no way to help you, other than to keep hold of your
hand as you labored.
Lili Flanders lives in Los Angeles. A story of hers won Vestal Review's Ten Years in Flash
Fiction contest, judged by Steve Almond.
Detail of art on main page courtesy
of Rami Efai.
Read LF's postcard.
W i g l e a f