Auld Lang Syne

Dad couldn’t stop crying after Kathy moved him into the facility. 
When she came to visit, he’d cry and say he wanted to die. He said 
the same thing to the nurses. This went on for about a month until 
the doctor put him on an antidepressant especially for Parkinson’s 
patients. The next time Kathy came to visit, she found him in the 
cafeteria, talking to some of the other residents and not crying at 
all—just enjoying his lunch. When it was time for her to go, he 
didn’t cry, but rather calmly escorted her to the car. “Do you like 
this car? My wife and I were thinking about getting one,” he told 
her. “That’s very interesting,” Kathy smiled, “because I am your 
wife.” Dad chuckled, “Is that right?” He squinted over the palm trees 
towards the freeway. So many cars. Busy busy busy. “Well, we’ll see 
you later, then,” he said, and shook her hand firmly, the way he’d 
learned to do at Rotary. What funny new friends he was making. 

More by Jennifer L. Knox

The Decorative Airport Fern Is Not What It Pretends to Be

and it takes me a triple-take to realize it's scanning
me, or something near my ear—that must be it. No plant’s 
ever complimented my perfume—wait—there it goes 
again. Did you see that? [Time passes, drinks] "Sure, I 
remember when I thought you were a fern but you were!
Who could blame me?" I tell the what’s now a magnificent
purple tetrahedron, eggplant-sized cilia straining at its corners, just 
a hint of ferniness remains in its fingertips—enough to blush. 
We hug goodbye. The scent of flowers lingers around me 
the next day. Flying home, a decorative airport fern that really 
is a decorative airport fern says, "You smell nice." I don’t 
believe it, but it's still a happy
ending.

A Fairy Tale

When my father was nine years old, his mother said, "Tommy, I'm taking you to the circus for your birthday. Just you and me, and I'll buy you anything you want." The middle child of six, my father thought this was the most incredible, wonderful thing that had ever happened to him—like something out of a fairy tale.

They got in the car, but instead of driving him to the circus, his mother pulled up in front of the hospital and told him to go inside and ask for Dr. So-and-so. After that they'd go to the circus.

He went inside and asked for Dr. So-and-so. A nurse told him to follow her into a room where she closed the door and gave him a shot. My father fell asleep, and some hours later, woke up crying in agony with his tonsils gone. A different nurse got him dressed, and sent him outside where his mother was waiting in the car with the engine running. He couldn't speak on the way home to ask her, "What about the circus?" Days later, when he could, he didn't. They never mentioned it again.

Fifty-eight years later, he tells this story to his wife, his only explanation, when she asks him, "What are you doing home from church so early?"

He'd walked out in the middle of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," never to return.

Name That Tune

Lately my 84-year-old mother’s been
hearing noises: a party in the street below
her bedroom window—gruff men cursing,
a woman’s shrieking laughter, beer cans going
“dink” off the concrete. Finally she got the nerve
to peek out: nothing but a street light. Sounds
coming from inside her, she says: pops, clicks,
swooshes, gongs, alarms, heavy steps pounding
through her as if someone’s stumbling around
on the roof. Her cellphone rings. “Hello?” No
answer from its flat, gray face. A fist pounding
on the door she never used to lock—so hard she
feared the wood would split—but the peephole:
empty. A voice in the middle of the night: “Joann!”—
impatient to get her attention, clear as day, she said.
“That must be terrifying,” I said. She giggled,
“I don’t know but it was really something!
You know that poem ‘I Sing the Body Electric’?”
“Of course. Did you recognize the voice?” I asked.
“It must’ve been my mother because she called me
‘Joann!’” she imitated her mother’s scolding voice
“in just that way.” “A woman?” I asked. “Yes,
and a stranger might call me, ‘Jody.’” “Yes,”
I agreed, so at least it’s someone who knows her.