Lilly, it’s been eighty-six years and I can still remember seeing you hiding in the corner. I asked poppa to bring you closer to me.
He held out his hand and you walked beside him grasping his overalls. I knew you were afraid. Of me? Your mother? Why not? You were only six years old and I was in bed, near lifeless, cyanotic. Blue lips, blue tongue, blue feet, blue hands, lapsing in and out of consciousness, suffocating, gasping to take air into lungs filled with fluid.
The next day, your brothers placed me on the dining room table they had moved into the living room. You stayed with me the entire time – the others left, or as they said, took turns. Sorry, I guess I’m supposed to be over all that by now.
At the cemetery, I remember how you stood between poppa and the priest – none of us liked that priest – always so dour, so serious, as if he had had hung for three hours on Golgotha. I felt so sorry for you when the priest demanded you sprinkle holy water on me. I wanted to reach out to comfort you but was unable – confined as I was. I wanted to take you with me, but that was forbidden.
In a few moments, after you have arrived, I will reveal how proud I am of you for never saying goodbye, and prouder still when you dropped the holy water sprinkler on the ground refusing to be bullied by the priest; and how sad I am that I had to leave you.
Thomas Elson’s short stories, poetry, and flash fiction have been published in numerous venues such as Calliope, Pinyon, Lunaris, New Ulster, Lampeter, Selkie, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, and Adelaide Literary Magazine. He divides his time between Northern California and Western Kansas.