The Space Between (Fiction) – Emilio Pasquale Photo

For August, Emilio Pasquale provided the following photo that I used as inspiration for a story.  If you haven’t already, you should check out his blog – he knows how to edit photos (I, on the other hand, do not!)    The story begins after the photo…

International truck - Copy

Ramona Schmidt dragged her index finger through the inches-thick layer of snow on the truck’s hood. Like her heart, the snow had frozen, thawed, and been refrozen so many times. Like her soul, that rusty truck held enough memories to haunt several lifetimes.

“Mama, won’t you come inside?”

Ramona didn’t respond.

“She’s been standing out there for over an hour,” Paula said to her husband.

“Maybe she just needs some time.”

“She’ll freeze to death. It must be twenty degrees out there.”

“She’s wearing a coat.”

Paula scowled. “There’s no talking to her.”

Ramona frowned. Since her husband, Davy, had turned up missing sometime after the leaves colored and before the naked trees stood stark on the horizon, her daughter and son-in-law came to live with her. Whispers of dementia carried through thin walls; slow words delivered by raised voices. The way they talked about her like she wasn’t there infuriated her. She slipped a cigarette from the pack stowed in her right coat pocket. With her left hand she clicked the lighter and brought the flame to the tip of the cigarette pressed between her lips, taking in a long drag as the tobacco smoldered.

“Mama, I think you should come inside.” Paula draped an arm over her mom’s bony shoulders. She glanced at her husband- he nodded and headed toward the house.

Exhaled smoke escaped in tendrils. “I’m fine here.” Ramona fought the urge to shrug off her daughter’s condescending touch.

“The man is coming to look at the truck in about an hour.”

Ramona brushed her fingers along the exposed rust. That truck was already several years old when Davy brought it home. She’d never forget how he showed up that evening and said he wanted to take a mining job in Idaho.   She didn’t understand why he couldn’t just mine copper in Arizona.

“If you’ve changed your mind about selling it, I can let him know.”

Ramona pursed her lips. “Winds change, minds don’t.” Eyes closed, she lifted her chin. As if on cue, another gust whipped a layer of fallen snow into the air. Her wrinkled cheeks, a topographical map of her years, stung from the latest assault. Her skin had grown dry from the hours spent outdoors at the mercy of an unforgiving winter. “My heart has gone dry from years of neglect.”   She flicked her spent cigarette filter and ground it into the frozen hay with the toe of her fur-lined leather slipper.

“What?” Her daughter leaned closer. “What do you mean?”

“Thy will be done,” Ramona said with a shrug. She didn’t realize her ideas had translated to spoken words. She stayed immersed in the space between, where memories and new thoughts commingled in her brain. More and more, it became difficult to differentiate between real and manufactured history. The permeable line separating thoughts and words diminished with each passing day. She giggled. “Incontinence of the mind.”

Continue reading

Oscar On My Mind

I normally don’t write about books I’ve read, but I finished reading a non-fiction book a couple days ago that is still with me.  I liked the book, but it was the most emotionally difficult book that I have ever read.  It took me nearly two weeks to read the 224 pages of this book; I’ve read this amount of “lighter” fiction books in a matter of hours.

The book I’m referring to is called Making Rounds With Oscar by Dr. David Dosa.   My mother-in-law gave it to me for my birthday (no, I don’t think she intended to make me cry, but that’s exactly what I did through most of the book).   It’s written by a geriatrician who works in a nursing and rehabilitation center and it’s about a cat (Oscar) with a knack for sensing when death is near and being there to comfort patients (and their families) as they die.  My mother-in-law gave me the book because I’m a cat person.

The author thinks the cat’s abilities are exaggerated by the staff at the nursing home, so he sets out investigate the facts.  Throughout the book, Dr. Dosa shares what he learned through interviews with family members of those who passed away and who were touched by Oscar.  By the end of the book, I’d gotten to know and grieved the loss of many patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  I’d felt the struggles of the families who wrestled with guilt over how they handled the process.  I was in awe of the normally aloof cat that would curl up next to patients in their last hours of life. 

Many of my tears were more personal, I think.  You see, someone I love suffers from the same ailment.  Some of the patients’ behaviors, families’ reactions and struggles with guilt and frustration were eerily similar to what I’ve witnessed.  This book felt like a glimpse into our future; a sad, depressing, scary future, where a hopeful person like me has difficulty finding a strand of positivity to cling to.