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Fiction

This is not going to be a good day was my first thought when the phone ringing at five a,m. cuts though the silence. Usually, at that time I may be slightly awake, through the window checking the horizon-is the moon full, can I please pull the duvet over my head, ignore Chloe, my dog, shifting her weight against my back, maybe needing to pee?

Why did I take the call, not let it go to message? Too late, I take the call.

Chloe leaps to the floor and heads for the stairs. , Phone in hand, I follow her , open the door an watch as she bolts through to the back yard.

It's my great aunt's voice, loud and clear. I could be wicked and end the call but... She's having one f her moments as her doctor names it. After all, a woman on soon to celebrate her ninetieth, is entitled to these moments. Aunt Liza, my grand-mother's sister, is a retired teacher, lives in a retirement home, and is a force to be reckoned with. She continues to walk a mile each day, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Trekking poles in had, ice grippers attached to her hiking boots, she challenges the iced surfaces on her trail around the retirement home. After lunch, her siesta is followed by a swim, then a workout in the gym on the 'Nu Step' . A daily glass of wine at five before dinner followed by a suspenseful crime movie on Netflix, then bed at ten.

By five a.m. she will have had her first morning coffee, a filtered dark roast, without cream or sugar. glaucoma has restricted reading.

Audio books are delivered weekly from the local library, the latest Louise Penny or Ian Banks detective novel feeds her imagination.

"You must come. Sheila. I 'm not well." She ends the call.

Out of pajamas and into layers of wool, I'm on the road in fifteen minutes. March, high temperatures and rain that started hours ago, has the roads slippery and treacherous. I tell myself to breathe, relax my grip on the steering wheel and proceed cautiously. Fortunately, the main road to town has been sanded. I navigate in the single cleared lane, avoiding patches of ice as the rain continues, The wipers frantically swiping back and forth to maintain limited visibility.

It came flying out of nowhere,. In the glare of my headlights. Thudding against the car. I can't brake nor swerve. In the rear view mirror. Chloe looks out the rear window. One less cat on the planet. I've never been a cat lover. Evil thoughts fill my head, probably a feral cat living in a barn. Our shard conspiracy, my dog and me.

It's suddenly very cold in the car. The thermostat registers on blue.

At the retirement home, Frank, on Security, listens to my story.

"The cat's knocked our your fan and radiator. Might as well write off your car. It's done."

"I've had a call from Aunt Liza. She has a problem.'

"I have a master key to let you in. 707 is where she is. Like that jet me and my wife took to France last year. Never forget that monster of a plane.

We step into the hall leading to the living room, silent and dark. A night light reflects off the tall hutch filled with Wedgewood china,

Swedish crystal and Inuit carvings. We ease around the love seat, winged arm chair and pine coffee table. Through the partially closed bedroom door a second night light dimly reveal Aunt Liza's

still form.

"Having a morning nap, are we, Aunty?"

No response. Her eyes are open staring at the ceiling. No pulse, Not breathing. A partially eaten nutrition bar is there on her duvet.

"Call 911!" I shout as I jump like puppy on to the bed and begin CPR.

By the time the paramedics arrive, she's responding, breathing with difficulty . "You ..."

"Relax, Aunty Liza. Just breathe for me. Okay?"

"Took your time..."

"I'm sorry, dear. Long story -for later."

"Can't get the stretcher in here. We'll carry to it," one of the paramedics says.

"No." Aunty shakes her head.

"You need to go to the hospital, Liza," Frank insists.

"I'm all right. My Sheila's a nurse. She'll take care of me.," she insists.

"Doctor Chalmers is on his way," Miriam, the nurse on duty says. "We can wait."

I take the remains of a nutrition bar she's holing. "Aunt Liza, when did you ad this to your midnight snack?"

"She gave it to me last night?"

"Who?"

"Long story. I'm tired. Need a nap, okay?"

Dr. Shepherd's diagnosis is a possible TIA, a mini-stroke. However, her blood pressure is normal, heart functioning well confirmed by a cardiogram, an MRI and lab tests.

"This is the last food she's eaten." I show him the nutrition bar. "Not something she had, previously."

He reads the ingredients on the wrapper then shakes his head. "This could definitely be the culprit. I always say, if you can't pronounce what's in this fast food stuff then you should not be eating it. Send it to the lab. In the meantime the diagnosis could be anaphylactic shock, in simple terms, an allergic reaction to this bar. I do believe it's the culprit."

"Who gave this to you, aunty?"

"One of the residents at dinner last night. Said her daughter gave her a box of them."

"I'll let the director know what's happened."

"You saved my life, Sheila."

"This is why you insisted I go into nursing instead of teaching, like you.?' I laughed.

"Sheila, look at me-a lonely old spinster, never married, no children." She paused. Except, you a re better than any daughter I might have had. I love, dear. Thanks for being my surrogate daughter."

"I could not have chosen a better surrogate mom, aunty."

Chloe stands at the door, wagging her tail.

"She needs a pit stop, aunty. Don't move from that bed while I take for a quick trip to the parking lot. It's spring. And why not this first rain to celebrate winter coming to an end?"

September 17, 2021 22:29

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