c o n v e r g e n c e:
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EDITOR'S CHOICE: cynthia linville's

Lois Ann Abraham

Photograph by Allyson Seconds

Photograph by Allyson Seconds


By Lois Ann Abraham

Cheryl and Wayne walked wordlessly out to the parking lot, her left hand in his strong right, his left hand doing its new awkward tremor, like a leaf in the breeze at the end of his hanging arm. When the car doors had crunched shut, they turned in their seats and looked at each other.

"How was that?" Wayne asked.

"Well, I don't have the screaming meemies yet," she said. "How about you?"

"I guess we'll get used to it," he said. "At least we'll have plenty of time to get used to it. It sounds like years, probably."

Cheryl turned her face away.

'Don't cry," Wayne said. "I'm not dead yet. Don't cry, sweetheart."

"I'm not crying," Cheryl said. "I'm thinking what to do."

As Wayne drove carefully home, Cheryl thought about telling the girls and dreaded it. They still depended on Wayne for so much. They had both been Daddy's girls, right from the start, like Cheryl. She still missed her own daddy, now ten years dead. She tried to remember Daddy's face, and it swam into her inner view, a round, full face with a look of confidence seemingly built into the features, the look that had made him such a good salesman, even better than Wayne, Cheryl thought.

She suddenly remembered the day when he had volunteered to take the family calico, Pansy, to the vet for a bothersome lump on her front leg. It must have been one of the few weekends when he was home instead of out in the field. She had helped him corner Pansy and then push her, protesting, into the carrier.

Mother had said, "It's probably just a foxtail. I try to check her feet every day, but you know how she is."

At seven, Cheryl had just graduated from little kid scissors, so she was sitting on the floor cutting out Care Bear paper dolls with the sharp, black-handled scissors from the utility drawer when Daddy got home from the vet, swinging into the room with the cat carrier and announcing, "The vet said it might be cancer, so I went ahead and had her put to sleep."

Cheryl remembered the shock on her mother's face as she sprang from the couch, her mouth drawn into a silent no, her hands held out in front of her as though she expected him to hand her something. Daddy said, "I figure it's better than going through all that expense and trouble. And just look at this little fellow I brought home!"

Cheryl remembered the fuzzy gray kitten stepping cautiously from the cat carrier, though she couldn't remember what had ever become of it. And she couldn't remember how she had felt at all.

"Don't worry," Wayne said, breaking the silence. "It sounds like I could last for years. We have plenty of time to plan."

It seemed to Cheryl for the first time that the future did not belong to her at all, that the future belonged only to Wayne and how he would change and what he would need. It seemed to her that three tracks stretched out in front of her. Of course, there was the busy commercial street they were driving down, with shops and gas stations and restaurants that should have been familiar and comforting, places belonging to the bright present Wayne's diagnosis had torn away from her and turned into an incongruous past. There was also the wide silver road she had expected to ride into the future, smoothed out by Wayne's careful attention to detail and enlivened with retirement, travel, family parties, and grandchild stay-overs. She could envision it, but it was no longer within her reach. The third road, the bitter one revealed today, the one to which she seemed to be condemned, was little more than a muddy path straggling up the side of a sodden hill, the flow of brown water increasing, the ravine flooding, more mud, more rocks, a landslide, the threat of losing her footing and being dragged under, and always this burden now entrusted to her, encumbering her steps, throwing her off balance, and no way to put him down.

But this was Wayne, her best person, the love of her life, and that made all the difference. The future had always been unknown whether she let herself know it or not. And in the crucible of time, these roads now before her would run together and be transformed from visions into experience into memories. She and Wayne would hold on as long as was given. She would carry him until one of them failed, and the end would arrive in its own mysterious way, as it always does. The tragedy had been named; now it would play out.

Lois Ann Abraham by Jessica Eger
Lois Ann Abraham

Lois Ann Abraham teaches writing and literature at American River College in Sacramento. Her work has been published in Sojourner, Chico News and Review, Writing on the Edge, Burning the Little Candle, and elsewhere. A collection of her short fiction, Circus Girl and Other Stories, is scheduled for release in 2014 by Ad Lumen Press. Watch for her novel Tina Goes to Heaven, currently out and looking for the right publisher. Her second novel, Stillscape with Ashes, is in the works.

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