Summer Melody Excerpt

How typical that Elizabeth would never remember Bonnie’s name but could somehow recall that Bonnie always brought a food offering. She dug through the detritus of wadded Kleenex and store receipts in her purse and found the bag of orange shortbread cookies she’d made yesterday. Elizabeth clutched the proffered sack with one delicate hand, fumbling with the other to get one of the shortbread squares out. Her fingers were long and spidery, their skin translucent as parchment. She brought the cookie to her mouth with a slight tremor and gnawed on it absent-mindedly, looking off into the distance.


She seemed now to have forgotten that Bonnie was even in the room. Every thirty seconds or so Elizabeth would lick a spittled crumb off her lips, habitual as a blink. After a few minutes she brought the half-eaten cookie back down to her lap, although she continued intermittently to lick her lips.


Bonnie felt a small thrum of concern ignite deep in her chest. This was new. Never before had Mother lost her focus during the act of eating, heretofore as precious to her as any act of intimacy. She might tune out during a conversation, close her eyes in mid-sentence, but eating? Bonnie examined her mother more closely, looking for changes. It was possible that Elizabeth appeared slightly thinner, but it was hard for Bonnie to say, since she saw her so often. She would have to ask the nurses before she left for the evening. They could check her weight log.


Elizabeth was nodding off now, her head cocked over to the wing of her chair. Her eyelids drifted shut for several seconds, then slit open not even a quarter-way as she unseeingly gazed at some moondust before her. They closed again, heavy with the slowed blinks that reminded Bonnie of her children when they were babies.


“The eagle has landed,” Bonnie whispered. She rose and stole the slobbery cookie off her mother’s lap. She did not want to wake Elizabeth, but couldn’t stop herself from attempting lightly to dust the crumbs away from her lap. Tucking the bag of shortbread in her jacket pocket, Bonnie smoothed over the lap robe resting on her mother’s legs.