Free Fiction Thursday – How We Danced

Good morning, everyone!

I don’t know about you, but this week my Thursday is rushed. I’m getting ready to head up to the Oregon coast for back-to-back workshops (yay!) but the process of getting ready for a car trip combined with a few stressful weeks at work is leaving me on the frazzled side. The older I get, the more sure I am that I’m going to forget something important and remember that I forgot about 300 miles down the road.  Yes, I’ve done that before.  It wasn’t pretty. *g*

So, time to quit nattering and get on with the fiction! This week’s story is a contemporary fantasy about a woman who escapes the confines of her body with a little help from a place that only exists in her mind. Or does it?

How We Danced

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2012 by Annie Reed

Image licensed by


Tonight the test hurt.

Claudia let out an involuntary cry as the lancet pierced the pad of her index finger.  Blood welled out, a fat red droplet, and she looked away.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Gary said.  “I had to dial the thing up.  Last time, I hardly got enough on the strip.”

Claudia kept staring at the blank ivory wall of her room.  She didn’t need to see the numbers on the tester’s readout to know her blood sugar was too high.  She’d had a fuzzy-headed feeling all day, the muzzy, sleepy grogginess that went hand in hand with her disease.  No amount of wishing made the feeling go away, and now the high number would be charted, and tomorrow the staff would take away her pudding.  They thought she wouldn’t notice.  They didn’t realize she noticed everything.

Like the sickly-strong scent of the floral room freshener plugged into an outlet on the other side of her room, the aroma meant to mask the odor of bedpans and ammonia.

Like the steady moaning of the woman in the next room when she fell into a fitful, nightmare-filled doze.

Like the gradual loss of compassion in her son’s eyes as he made his twice-weekly evening visits, always accompanied by the twice-weekly testing of her blood.

Her family couldn’t afford to keep her in a nursing home, and no one in the family could care for her in their own homes.  Gary was single, but his job barely kept him afloat.  Claudia’s daughter lived halfway across the country with a husband who had his own health issues.  Gary had explained the situation to Claudia when he’d moved her into this group home after her stroke.   He’d talked to her like everyone did, like she was a little child who couldn’t understand anything.

Claudia understood everything.  The stroke had left her unable to talk, unable to walk, unable to do almost anything for herself, but it hadn’t left her unable to think.

The staff in the group home weren’t nurses, they were caregivers.  While they could parcel out Claudia’s medication in neat little piles, some to be taken with food, some without, they couldn’t test her blood, so that task fell to Gary.  At first he had been squeamish about it.  But as the weeks grew into months, and the months grew into a new year, Gary had grown callous.  Claudia supposed it was only natural.  To him, she was only a hollow shell of the mother he had always known.  She wished she wasn’t a burden.  It was the thing that had angered her the most after her stroke.  She’d never wanted to become a burden to her children in her old age.  She never wanted them to resent her.

At times like this, Claudia wished the stroke hadn’t taken her ability to speak.  She wanted to tell Gary he was still a good boy and she loved him.

Most of all, she wished she could tell him about the Other Place.

(read the rest of the story here)

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