Judging from the angle of sunlight playing with my cat, Taro, I’ve had a bit more sleep than I am usually able to manage. I wake up in sections, stretching on the expensive mattress my kids insisted I needed; they were right – rising is a lot less painful than it used to be pre-the-something-o-pedic. My hips take the longest time to cooperate, and because I need them to sit up, I thank them first. They’re not perfect but they’re the original set, and that’s more than a lot of people my age can say. I am grateful for every part of this body for what it continues to give me, and for what it hasn’t. At least not yet. So, I start each day voicing my thanks out loud, a ritual Taro has come to believe is Taro-centric. She thinks most things are.
I sit at the edge of my bed and grab some woolen socks from the basket that hangs off the wooden headboard. This is the most irritating part of my day. My feet have never been anywhere close to pretty, and the past twenty years have not been kind to them. More disturbing than the way they look is their increasingly sinister unreliability. They have a tendency to seize up or go numb when I least expect it, that is, when I forget to remember their intermittent treachery. They are my anatomical problem children, and, I admit, it’s a struggle to love them. Especially when just putting on a pair of socks can be so tedious; my toes balk at the necessary contractions, and the rough, calloused skin of my heels catch on the soft alpaca Nordic designs my youngest daughter favours. I sportscast the process for Taro, who listens closely while quietly attending to her own velvet paws.
When I am able to stand, Taro performs figure eights around my ankles, her tail flicking at the damp flesh behind my knees. She ushers me towards the hallway, then leaps ahead. As I shuffle into the kitchen, Taro jumps onto the countertop where she stalks the electric can opener. Unlike a lot of cats, she never feigns indifference. Taro is an unabashed lover of life, a Zen master of moment-to-moment mindfulness and grace. I have been a most willing disciple.
I’ve been saving some fresh cherries for this morning’s breakfast, a treat I enjoy both for their sharp sweet flavor and for the memories they conjure. When my girls were little, they’d called the stems ‘the cherry bones.’ They’d wash them in apple cider vinegar and collect them in a special jar. When they had a decent amount, and when my eldest declared that it was time, they’d bury them in the backyard under our copper beech tree. Always the same spot. Nothing has ever come up. On fine days, though, Taro and I pick our way through the bright shade of the tall green grass and check. Because why not?
Taro watches me abandon the dishes in the sink without washing them. I don’t mind leaving them dirty, and I know she doesn’t either; she likes to poke at them when she thinks I’m not paying attention, hoping I’ve left something good for her to chew on. I feel unusually tired, kind of a bit wavy, actually, and I sit back down at my place at the end of the long farmer’s table. My middle daughter will be along soon. I think I’ll ask her to check my blood pressure. She’s a veterinarian, not a doctor; we always enjoy trading jokes about the medical care she gives me. I’m wondering what we’ll make for lunch when a jagged blade tears at my side and I call out for Adrienne, now ten years gone, and m...
Taro is licking my face, the part that’s not mashed up against the chilly Mexican kitchen tile carefully chosen for its beauty and affordability when our house was in the planning stages. I’m glad of its cool comfort. I’m flat and feel like I’ve been pasted against one of those outlawed playground spinning saucers, but I’ve nothing to hold onto. I’m just whirling, afraid that if I lift my head from the floor, it’ll stay still. I may choose to linger a bit, right here, and rest my cherry bones.
Carolyn R. Russell
Carolyn R. Russell is the author of In the Fullness of Time, a dystopian thriller published by Vine Leaves Press in 2020. Her humorous YA mystery, Same As It Never Was, was released in 2018 by Big Table. The Films of Joel and Ethan Coen, her volume of film criticism, was published by McFarland & Company in 2001. Her poetry, essays, and short stories have been featured in numerous publications, including The Boston Globe, Flash Fiction Magazine, Club Plum Literary Journal, Ekphrastic Review, Reflex Press, and Dime Show Review. She holds an M.A. in Film Studies from Chapman University, and has taught on the college, high school, and middle school levels. Carolyn lives on and writes from Boston’s North Shore.
The Ekphrastic Review
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