by Joseph Grant
At the Shady Oaks Hospice, most of the nursing personnel had gone home for the holidays and the convalescent center was unusually light-staffed tonight, Estelle Harrington murmured to herself with a despondent sigh; after all, it was Christmas Eve and those who didn’t have to be here were long-gone and here she was again, alone as always, her family having grown as cold and as heartless as the winter outside her forgotten window. Mrs. Harrington could not bear the notion of being in the home another worthless year just wasting away as she considered it; although to the friendly staff she was a local celebrity, interviewed by the press every birthday as she was after all, their oldest patient at 110 years old and to this end, she often remarked to the orderlies: “I fear that God has forgotten me.” Day by day and one by one, Mrs. Harrington collected the mild sedatives the nurses gave her for sleep, pretending to swallow them but instead craftily hiding them up against her gum on the side of her cheek until she had amassed roughly thirty or so pills in a hole in her pillowcase; that should do the trick, she thought with a sly smile, if the Lord has forgotten me, I will just have to gently remind Him I was still here. When Mrs. Harrington had been tucked away in bed for the evening and the few nurses and orderlies left had snuck off to exchange gifts in the lounge, she carefully slipped the pills into the glass of water beside her bed and watched them dissolve in a fizzle as Christmas lights twinkled off the door and onto the glass giving the ritual an ethereal but bizarrely festive glow and a smile crept across her face as the lights blinked upon the photo of her husband, Walter, dead 61 years last May, dressed as a young man in his striking doughboy outfit during the Great War. She missed and often lamented for the one true love of her life and was terribly lonely without him all of these years and she determined it was time she see him again as she raised the glass to her lips with a trembling hand and nearly dropped the tumbler, startled at the inconceivable sight of her doughboy Walter; handsome and young again, standing at the foot of the bed. Without hesitation, she found herself getting out of the bed and taking his hand in hers and as he sang the song he had sung this very day, their wedding day in 1920; (“May I have this one last dance, Marie, just like we did that night in Paree?”), they danced around the room in the moonlight and she caught sight of herself smiling in the mirror, no longer an elderly, withered woman but transformed into the ravishing, young beauty she had once been, her prayers having been answered, she was finally ready to pass on to the next realm, saved by her one true love and to be by his side, for all eternity.
Joseph Grant, whose full catalog is here, has been published in over 55 literary reviews and e-zines, such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Howling Moon Press, Hack Writers, New Online Review, Indite Circle and Cerebral Catalyst.