Here’s another short story I wrote for my online writing course through the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. The program offers excellent feedback from other participants. So worth it!
I hope you enjoy it.
A Card on Mother’s Day
You shouldn’t have wasted your money on flowers. They’ll only die.
Mom tells me that every Mother’s Day. This year I want to say, So will dad.
I hesitated at their front door. I don’t want to do this.
I fingered the bouquet of red carnations and the bag in my hands. Rang the bell. Turned the knob. Always unlocked. I stepped in. Mom came down the hall. “He’s not good.”
I nodded. “These are for you. Happy Mother’s Day.” I handed her the carnations. She offered a thin smile. “I’ll find a vase.”
I followed her to the kitchen.
“Go say hello. Your dad’s awake.”
I walked to their bedroom. Dad lay in a hospital bed. Shrunken. Pale. Eyes closed.
He opened his eyes. Nodded slightly.
I took a corsage and a card out of the bag. “I got these for you to give mom. Can you sign the card?”
Dad shook his head. His eyes glazed over.
“Okay, I’ll sign for you.” I pulled a pen from my shirt pocket, opened the card.
To My Wife on Mother’s Day.
I signed the card, Love, Bill. I had already written Dear Mary across the top of the card.
I stuffed the card in the matching yellow envelope. Left the card and the corsage on the side of the bed, next to dad. “I’ll get mom.”
I returned to the kitchen. “Dad needs you for a minute.”
Mom wiped her hands on a dishtowel and went back to the bedroom.
I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat at the table. Stared out the window. Took in a deep breath. Not good.
A while later mom came back to the kitchen, her eyes wet. “Thank you for doing that for him.”
She busied herself preparing supper. A light meal. Shrimp cocktail, potato salad, deviled eggs. “I doubt he’ll eat anything.”
After we ate, mom’s close friend Angela stopped by. With a crumb cake from the local deli. My favorite. We sat in silence eating the cake and drinking coffee.
Afterwards, I told mom I’d be back in a little while. I went out for a walk. A long walk. All the way to the edge of town, to the park that bordered the bay. I circled the park till well after dark.
When I got back to the house, Angela met me at the front door. “Your dad is gone.”
I nodded. “How’s mom?”
“Having coffee. Do you want to see your dad?”
I walked back to the bedroom again. The Mother’s Day card stood on the night table. The corsage was on her pillow.
I stood looking down at my dad. My dad’s body. His empty eyes. With an index finger I gently closed his eyes.
The doorbell rang. Moments later two undertakers stepped into the bedroom. They said nothing. I moved aside, walked back to the kitchen. Mom sat at the table, Angela next to her, holding her hand.
Mom looked up at me. “He’s at peace now. No more pain.”
“See if the undertakers need anything.”
As I approached the bedroom, I heard the zip of the body bag. I stopped. They came out of the room. I met their eyes. Nodded.
I walked ahead of them to the front door. Held it open for them. Stood in the doorway. A dark moonless night.
I watched them carry the body bag to their van. I felt a single tear ooze out as they drove off.
I stared into the darkness.