Hang A Shadow
Maggie stood at the end of the driveway, her hand midway into the mailbox, her eyes transfixed by Hank's shadow on the living room curtains. Silhouetted by her reading lamp, he stood with one hand on his hip and looked almost as he had some thirty years earlier. Dear Hank: athlete, soldier, doting father, pilot, loving husband and man made rich by a thousand friends.
The shadow lurched, stumbled and then began to flail. She could feel his fury all the way out at the road. Her hand sought the small .38 Police Special in her apron pocket. Her son Squeak made her take the thing three months earlier, after Hank tried to choke her in the laundry room. The attack came out of nowhere. She remembered thinking how gentle his hands felt when they circled her neck, not really so different from the thousands of times he'd touched and explored her body during fifty-three years of marriage.
This newfound violence came wrapped in oddly familiar gestures, which caused her to let her guard down more often than she should. His fingers, curled around a coffee mug or stroking the stubble of his afternoon beard, were as known and dear to her as well-worn slippers.
The alien rage still surprised her.
The steel handgun chilled her palm, colder than the icicles that clung to the winter-bare trees. She watched the stumbling shadow gain control. Shoot Hank? The thought was as preposterous as putting him in a home. That was Dr. Lovette's suggestion.
But they didn't know Hank. Not the way she knew him. Somewhere, lost in Alzheimer's labyrinth of phantom events and confusion, lived the man she'd wed so long ago. To others, Hank might seem more dead than alive. But not to her.
This thing that lurked within Hank's space, that swung at her with his large hands and peered at her through rheumy eyes that had once held her mesmerized in a whirlpool of adoration, this thing simply could not win.
Walking back to the house, she went over her evening plans. Music. The old LPs they still kept and played on lazy afternoons. His favorite food, spaghetti and hot garlic bread. Maybe he would even want to dance. He'd done that just seven months ago.
Full and content, Hank would fall asleep, hiding the monster deep and far away. To the old sounds, the swing sounds and big band sounds, she would offer him escape. Once he found release, she would follow and help him find his way out of the maze.
First published: February, 2007
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