by Amanda Gunn

The new disease came as a surprise to her, like a whiff of Shalimar: smoke, iris, bergamot, evening before utter dark. It turned her bones into gravel. And who were her old aches to bend before the new? Her knees still throbbed. Her face still looked like her mother’s. And now her living body gave it succor, the cancer, even at her expense. Each day she woke, bracing herself for the smaller disasters of dying: a broken foot, a snapped finger, the Tareytons she had to give up. She held her Bible and prayed until morning wore itself thin, through soap operas and mock judges, through Wheel of Fortune and the news, until night came again, that miserable smart aleck, cloaked in vapor, telling her dreams like dirty jokes. What would her daughters say when they returned? She could see them already: ghostly eyes, gnashing teeth, arms outstretched with purple blooms.

Published on January 4, 2022