Is there anything you’d like? he asked. Maybe some tea. It’d help you feel better, the old man told her. She shook her head. How about a hot whiskey? she smiled. Told him no. You can’t go on like this forever. All curled up here on the couch. Why don’t you climb into bed and stay there till you feel better? she grabbed more of the blanket with her frail hands. I’ll make you some tea. The good kind with the Tang and lemonade in it. LIke your mom used to make you, he walked into the kitchen. Opened a beer from the ice box. Calmed his nerves. He was sure of it this time. She was dying.

The boy is coming up from Kentucky to see you, her wrinkled face was glowing. She smiled for a moment. Then winced in pain. Said he wanted to see you, he said. Asked all about you, he mixed the tea in her favorite mug. She got it from DollyWood when they went there on vacation some years ago. She was a big Dolly Parton fan. The old woman used to hum Jolene all the time. While she cooked meals, washed dishes, made beds, ‘fore she went to sleep. Always humming Jolene. The old man had the Playboy with her on the cover. He kept it hidden from his wife. He kept a lot of things hidden.

He carried the mug over with both hands. Placed it on the table beside her along with tissues, cough medicine, pills, and Tylenol. She had a constant fever. It wouldn’t break. You’re going to be alright, her husband said to her. You’re going to be alright, his hand felt her forehead. Yeah. The boy should be here any day now, he said. Took time off work just to be with you. Think he’s going to stay awhile. Think so. You wanna watch some TV? she shook her head. What about with the sound down. Just pictures. You can look at the pictures, she nodded yes. Well alright then, he said as he picked up the remote. Wheel Of Fortune was on. The old woman was a big fan of Pat Sajak. She liked Vanna too. She’d solve the puzzles in seconds. The phone rang.

Hello. Yes. How are you? he walked back to the other room. What do you mean you can’t come up? he hushed his voice. I’m telling you she’s dying. This could be the last time you see her, he said. The last time. You think work is more important than family? his voice raised. You should be ashamed of yourself. Down right ashamed, he told his son. You better hope she pulls out of this. But, I don’t see how. Yeah. Alright, the old man hung up.

That was work, he told her. She knew he was lying. She knew she wasn’t going to see her boy. And, she also knew he didn’t want to see her. They hadn’t talked in years. Arguments over money. She said he owed them and he said he didn’t and so on and so on. It’s always about money.

She laid there watching Wheel Of Fortune. A contestant hit bankrupt. She let out a snicker. Ain’t that something, she whispered. Ain’t that something.

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