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“Does everybody lie about their lives?”

The covers shift. Jacob’s fingers graze her stomach. “Probably.”

She’s aware of his roughened skin, the callouses. Lotion would help. If she rubbed it in just before bed, he wouldn’t have the energy to protest. She strokes his hand. “D’you think this counts as sex?”

Jacob snorts.

Outside their window, one bird is carrying on like a whole choir.

“Time to get up,” she says.

Jacob pulls the blanket over his head.

“Well, maybe not,” says Nell. “When did you get to sleep?”

“Around one.” His voice is muffled.

“Then you should stay in bed a while longer.”

He begins to cough, one of those deep, rattling coughs that make him sound much older than he is.

“You’re scaring me,” she says.

“What’s there to be scared of?”


Nell pulls herself up, does a few stretches. Arms up, arms to the side, head swiveling. It isn’t exercise, not really, but it makes her feel better. Competent.

She walks into the bathroom, a tiny room with patches of gray mildew on the ceiling. She’s saddened by this cramped, unlovely space. There’s barely enough place for two people. If she and Jacob are rushing, impossible.

No reason to rush anymore. She’s retired from her job, and Jacob works at home, sets his own hours. She slips her arms into the sleeves of her old blue robe and moves heavily down the hall into the kitchen.

Buzz is there, stretched out on his cushion. He rises and stumbles towards her, whimpering.

“You make me feel old, Buzzy.”

Well, she is old. Her hip hurts where she banged it against a door knob weeks ago. Nothing heals quickly anymore. A thought flashes into her head. She stares at Buzz, he looks as fragile as a shell. She could take a rock from the garden she and Jacob have neglected and crush his skull. She’d do it quickly, he wouldn’t feel a thing.

She winces. Do others have these thoughts? She must be crazy.

A warm spring morning. Later, they’ll see the kids. She won’t feel like it at first, but then she’ll see Benjie and she’ll be happy. For two or three hours, she’ll be happy, splashing in joy like a child in a kiddy pool.

Buzzy starts wheezing. He wheezes constantly now. His heart’s enlarged. She gives him two small tablets every day. Nellie fondles his ears then starts to make breakfast, granola with chunks of apple, peaches, grapes - whatever’s in season. When she’s done, she’ll give what’s left to Buzzy. He’ll gobble it up quickly. He loves to eat.

Nellie grins. Well, that’s a reason for living. That ratty old dog still loves to eat.

“Morning” was published in Fictive Dream.


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