by Copper Rose
Abilene swings her feet from the warm bed. She gathers the frayed edge of the nightgown around her skinny thighs and sucks in her breath as her soles touch the cold floor. Hiking up her hem, she tiptoes to the bathroom to relieve herself. She sighs. She is always in search of relief, scanning every area of her life, hoping it will come in language, in a form she recognizes. She never wishes for a lot.
Abilene tugs at the collar of the gown, inspects her neck and face in the medicine cabinet mirror, spots nothing out of the ordinary and nods her head in satisfaction. One less thing to worry about. She glimpses her hair, shakes her head, nothing to be done about it. The only thing to do is focus on something else.
Abilene peeks in her husband’s bedroom. They had stopped sharing a room eight years ago when Henry became ill after working thirty-seven years at the parking garage, for the city parks department. He is too restless. Exhausted. Fuming. Selfish in his pain. Abilene finds a smidgen of peace in having a room of her own after fifty-two years, her room to the right of the bathroom, Henry’s to the left.
Henry is snoring, his head propped awkwardly on the pillow, one scrawny leg flung from beneath the tangled blankets that cover the three-quarter bed, his mother’s bed with the rounded, maple foot board where it is hard to tuck things in but looks lovely in the spare room. His puckered mouth open—the one gold tooth glints in the morning sun shining through the window. Veins bulge in his forearms, above his balled-up fists clutched to his chest. He’s been pounding his lungs again, trying to squeeze out every ounce of air trapped inside. His eyes flutter open. His head lifts slightly as he scans the room searching for his wife.
“You hungry now, Henry?” Abilene asks.
Abilene ducks into the kitchen to fix his bowl of oatmeal, with a spoonful of powdered gelatin added, softened a little to help it blend in. The protein he needs, but hates. There are two servings left in the box of oatmeal. Three servings left of the gelatin. No money at the end of this month to buy more if she decides to pay for the electricity they need to run Henry’s oxygen concentrator.
Abilene balances the bowl and spoon in one hand, carries a glass of water in the other. Henry turns his face away when she holds the spoon to his mouth.
The next morning Abilene swings her feet from the warm bed. She has made a decision. Henry is sleeping, his puckered mouth open. She is quick with her morning work, something she has to do before the oatmeal. Before she changes her mind.
By the time the oatmeal is ready the bleeding has stopped. Henry opens his mouth as Abilene spoons in the oatmeal. The gold tooth glints in the sun—on the kitchen windowsill next to the gold watch the city gifted to Henry upon his retirement. The pawn shop opens at ten and there is just enough gas in the car.