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She sat and sat. And then that was about enough. She let her book fall onto the table, stood, stretched, left the room, left the house. And the world outside was tremendous.
The warmth. The smell of the dogwoods, of fertilizer, of Spring itself, overwhelmed her. A perfect day to shake out the cobwebs, she thought; to realign herself; to walk into town. Certainly much too perfect to be cooped-up indoors.
So many choices. She’d seen a delicate ruby brooch at the Jumble Store that had really caught her eye. And she considered spoiling herself and getting ice cream. But instead, she settled for a simple picnic in the park. She stopped at the Butchers, picked up a liter of iced tea, an oversized bag of popcorn, and – as a special treat – a quarter pound of chipped ham which she would eat with her fingers, girlishly and uncivilised, straight out of the wrapper.
The park was bliss. She picked a bench, clean and warm. And with the exception of a few dog-walkers, she had the place to herself. Today, she would let go of time and burdens and live in the moment, enjoying simple listless currents. Today, the absence of time was her friend.
Slowly, messily, she ate and drank. She felt the gentle spray of the fountain at the center of the lake, felt every wisp of breeze, and the warmth of a not-too-hot midday sun. If you asked, she’d swear she heard every bird’s whistle that afternoon. Maybe she’d even throw popcorn to the nearby ducks, despite all the signs warning against it.
A quarter of the lake away she saw a young man, an artist, in khaki shorts behind an easel, painting. From where he stood, she imagined herself likely within his perspective, possibly even in his landscape. She marveled at his slow, steady effort; his patience.
She wanted to meet him suddenly and set up her own easel beside his. She wanted to help this kindred spirit capture forever all the natural beauty, despite the fact that she had never ever painted anything. (But really, how hard could it be?) She would go over, she had decided, and introduce herself. And he’d be pleasant and friendly, and they’d easily get along.
And she was restless, suddenly. Obligations, unfinished chores, filled her head like a cloud of gnats. She closed her eyes, took a breath, and released them all back to the ether. But when she looked again it was too late.
The moment was gone.
When she returned six hours later, it was still early, still a long time before Mrs. Cooke would be home from work.
The TV was on. As expected, the old man was on the floor. He had messed himself, and was wheezing and whimpering, his arms trembling slightly from side to side. One of his oxygen tubes had dislodged but he was fine. He was still getting more than enough air. And what did it matter, anyway? He barely knew where he was.
She changed his sheets, threw them in the wash, then cleaned and changed him as well. She lifted him back to the bed, noticing that he seemed lighter today.
And after a few minutes he lolled off and went back to sleep.
And she sat back down in her chair, and picked back up her book.
And she read.
Alex Bernstein is a freelance writer in New Jersey. His work has appeared at Corvus, BluePrintReview, Hobo Pancakes, Gi60, The Rumpus, The Legendary, The Big Jewel, MonkeyBicycle, Yankee Pot Roast, Swink, and PopImage, among others. Please visit him at www.promonmars.com.