By Niles Reddick
The sitter invited me into Emmaline’s efficiency at the assisted living center, a two story red brick building nestled among Long Leaf pines and camellias.
“Why, no, we’re not busy at all. Just watching the news. You come on in. You’ve come so far,” the sitter said.
“Thank you,” I replied.
“There,” she pointed. “Sit next to Ms. Emmaline.”
“Hello, Emmaline. How are you feeling?”
“I’m feeling good. They gave me chocolate pudding at lunch.”
“Um, that sounds delicious.”
“It was. I like chocolate. Mama said I shouldn’t eat it. Might make me fatter, but daddy said eat what you want. You only go around once.” Emmaline had been plump when she was younger, like the Gala apples she grew on the family farm. Now, at ninety-four, she has withered in her winter—her arms bruised with sagging tissue paper skin, one eye red with blood, wisps of patchy gray hair teased and sprayed.
“I love chocolate, too,” Monica said.
“I’d offer you some if I had any left,” Emmaline said. “They won’t let me have seconds. Said it’s bad for my blood sugar. I’m ninety-four, but I don’t look a day past eighty-nine.” She laughed small breaths. “What’s your name, honey?”
“I’m Monica. I used to spend summers at your farm when my daddy Sam was married to your daughter Barbara.”
“You might be in the wrong room, honey. I never had children. I wanted to, you know, but I couldn’t and then I lost my husband so young on that tractor. I told him to get a John Deere. Nothing with a name like that would have killed him, but he wouldn’t hear of it. I had a hard time running that farm by myself all those years after he was gone, my parents gone, and no children.” Truth is, Emmaline and her husband had adopted a son and daughter, and both had died before her. Since she hadn’t remembered them, no one had bothered to tell her.
“You been feeling alright, Emmaline?”
“I have. Just don’t know why I’m still here. Can’t do anything anymore. Have to have this woman to watch me. Not sure why they make me have a sitter. I’d be better off to go on and die—maybe slip in the shower and knock myself into the hereafter.”
“Oh, now, don’t talk like that. The world is a better place because you are here.”
“You’re sweet. I hope you come back and visit me again. Lauren, is that right?”
“Oh, yes, Monica. Lauren is the one who gives me the bruises up and down my arm. Girl’s a regular vampire. I’m a little tired and will just rest a bit.”
Monica whispered to the sitter, “I noticed the ‘No Visitors’ sign. Are they worried about her catching the flu or something?”
“No,” the sitter shook her head. “One of the local charities tried to get her to sign a revised will. The cousins’ family hired me to sit with her and be a gate keeper.”
“Oh my,” said Monica. “What a shame. It breaks my heart to see her this way. I never would have guessed she would’ve been so disoriented.”
“Makes me hope to go sooner rather than later.”
Monica nodded, looked back at Emmaline who’d fallen asleep, and closed the door behind her. She knew she wouldn’t visit again.
Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured six anthologies and in over a hundred literary magazines all over the world including Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, Spelk, Cheap Pop, The Arkansas Review: a Journal of Delta Studies, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Miscreant, Slice of Life, Faircloth Review, among many others. His website is www.nilesreddick.com