Mara lets the dying man touch her breasts. This is, naturally, in direct violation of her duties. Volunteers are relegated to the playing of card games, to the refilling of pink plastic cups with ice water, to the reading of the Bible.
But what the dying man needs most, thinks Mara, is not another round of Go Fish, rather, a pair of big fat breasts. Hers being neither big nor fat, but apt for the task.
A smile quivers on the dying man’s lips and Mara is reminded of King David and how, when he was old and feeble, a beautiful young maiden was sent to his bed to keep him warm. Mara dislikes this Old Testament story for its particularly objectifying, misogynistic tone. But now, as the dying man’s cold fingers press against her skin like a frozen man coming back to life, she understands.
Dad draws a slow labored breath as if gathering strength from the four corners of earth. "Listen," I say. "He's trying to talk." The makeshift breakfast table we've assembled around his hospice bed becomes an immediate tableau: my brothers and sisters, our spouses, our children, even our children's children, freeze with expectation, corkscrews of amber syrup dripping silently from our forks—Dad hasn't uttered a word in two weeks.
He motions for me.
This is it, I think. The passing of the torch. Abraham giving a blessing to Issac. Dad, our patriarch, unfurling like a Torah scroll to reveal hidden mysteries, darkened parables, secret things of old that will bring his enigmatic life into climatic, understandable resolution.
He pulls me close and I listen for his voice, like straining to hear an echo from the depths of a cave. He points a withered finger toward a tray, to a frosted raisin biscuit. "Where's……the……butter?"
Audra Kerr Brown told her first story at the age of two and has been writing ever since. She holds a BA in English from the University of Iowa and lives with her husband and daughter on a farm near Morning Sun, Iowa.