“The fireflies came out tonight. It’s the first time I’ve seen them in a while. I know how much you like them.” His voice hummed like the softest of sandpaper against her skin. “There weren’t that many of them. Only a couple of pairs. Still, they were like tiny stars floating off into the night.”
She could feel him close to her. It was the way the air moved in the room around him, like static clinging to him. She could almost feel her breath being drawn out of her chest towards him, her lungs too weak to put up much of a fight. “Fairy lights,” she said in that rasping voice that could only remind her of her mother’s in the last years of her life.
“Yes, like fairy lights,” he agreed. She hated when he did that–agree with her just because she was old. He was treating her like a child. But she was still in here. She needed him to know that she was still in here. She labored upward, reaching towards where she thought he was. She wanted to scream at him. To let him know that she was still alive.
But all that came from her struggle was a rasping cough.
“Careful mom, save your breath.” His hand caught hers. He was so much stronger than she remembered. She could feel his arm around her, lowering her back into bed.
The mood passed. He was still holding her hand. She liked it when he did that. It was one of the only ways she knew that he was actually there. The fog had stolen his face from her, as well as those memories. Only when he held her hand did she remember him as the little boy she once knew.
“Tell me more about the stars,” she asked, wanting to keep him near her for a little while longer.
“Yes, mom,” he said and she could hear the smile in his voice. “They were awful pretty tonight. I took the kids down to the walnut fields–you remember how much I loved them when I was younger?–and we played tag well after dark. Jacob saw his first shooting star. And it was like the whole world made sense in that one moment. Such wonder. Was I ever that young? It feels like another lifetime…”
She could feel the tide sweeping him away from her. She wanted so desperately to hear the end of the story. She grasped his hand as tight as her aged muscles could but she couldn’t hold on. His words blurred into susurration of the tides.
When the story was done the man sat, clutching his mother’s hand in both of his. Tears ran freely down his face. He did not try to wipe them away. Slowly, with the care he had afforded his son even before his first step, he laid his mother’s arm at her side and closed her eyes.
Z.B. Wagman is a writer based in Portland, Oregon. He has two dogs that take most of his attention. When not bribing the dogs out into the rain, he can be found at the Beaverton City Library, where he finds much inspiration for his writing.