Vancouver, WA

May 1st, 2019

He was editing yet another manuscript, his third in the past two months, when his cell phone began to buzz against his desk. Normally he kept the volume on, but he’d taken his kids to see a movie just the other day and had needed to silence it. Sometimes it took him a while to turn the ringer back up to full volume, though the vibrations that shook the entire phone and whatever it was settled against were usually enough to get his attention. Sighing to himself he picked up the phone and saw that it was his mother calling, the red and green signals shaking on the screen, asking him in their own way what he wanted to do.

Since ignoring his mother was a bad idea in the best of times he hit the green button and just as quickly hit the megaphone symbol that would turn the speakerphone option on. Inhaling through his nose he closed his eyes as he said “Hi mom.”

“Hi sweetie, how are you doing?”

“Fine,” he said, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, “just working is all. What’s up?”

“Well, your aunt isn’t doing very well, and in fact the hospice nurse has been telling us that she’s not going to be able to get out of bed much longer. She just doesn’t have the strength left.”

He could hear the pain in his mother’s voice and the sorrow that was backing it, and he felt like an instant heel for wanting to say ‘that’s too bad’. His aunt had always cared deeply about him after all and had looked after him a time or two while he’d been growing up. So why couldn’t he dredge up even a note of concern in his voice?

“We’ll be there tomorrow,” he said calmly, “All of us are making it up.”

“Oh good,” she sounded relieved at least, though still quite sad, “I’m glad you’ll be here. She’s been wanting to see you, and the girls. Will you want them to come in the house or just stay in our RV?”

His parents’ RV wasn’t huge but it was big enough to take their three little girls and his parents always had enough stowed away for the girls to play with. He didn’t know how he felt about them being around his aunt at this point since it sounded as though she was quite frail and wouldn’t be around for very long. But he knew why his wife and his mother both wanted them to come along.

“We’ll take it as it comes,” he said, closing his eyes and biting his lip, “If she’s got the energy to see them then we’ll bring them in.”

“Okay honey,” his mother replied, sounding slightly relieved, “We’ll be here when you come. When do you think you’ll be making it up?”

“We’ll leave here around 9, that should be late enough in the morning to miss a good chunk of rush hour.”

“Okay sweetie, we’ll see you then. Love you.”

“Love you,” he replied, hitting the red END button on his phone as his mother’s voice was replaced with silence. He sat there looking at the phone for several moments before going back to work, wondering again just what had happened in his life to make him so cold that he could no longer feel anything but the inevitability of what was going to happen soon.

He felt like a world-class heel.

(to be continued)

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