Text Box: First Quarter 2017  Second Place

Appearances

by

Douglas Bruton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It looked like dancing. The way he held onto her; the way she held onto him. No music was playing, but they swayed in rhythm, moving together as one, and so it looked like dancing. Ursula was unsteady on her feet and he had to support her from her wheelchair to a comfortable seat by the fire and he placed a familiar book in her lap so that when she had recovered her breath there was something to read.

And it looked like conversation when, later in the morning, Harold talked of the weather and how the garden was doing now that the spring was with them. And he told her what was in the news and what the gossip was in the town and what was planned for dinner. It looked like conversation, though all the words were his and Ursula did not lift her head from her book or nod or show that she had heard.

It looked for all the world as if there was nothing wrong, the two of them sitting at table and it was the dinner he'd told her about and it was evening. She was allowed a little red wine, for doctors in the newspapers had said it was good for the heart if it was only one glass. And though Harold had cut up her meat, as a parent does for a child, Ursula was able to lift the fork to her mouth herself; and so it looked like there was nothing wrong when everything was.

Then, as the day drew to a close and night crept into all the corners of the house, Harold got her to her unsteady feet again and he undressed her for bed, slow and gentle. And, with a damp cloth and a bowl of warm soapy water, he wiped her back, caressing and caressing the skin, and her sagging breasts he wiped, and under her arms and over the pelvic cradle and between her legs, behind her knees and between her toes well, then it looked like sex but it was not.

At last, lying together in the one bed, and it was dark, as near dark as the insides of cupboards with the doors left open; and the creak and groan of the settling house was all the sound that there was, that and the softest rattle in her breath, in his breath; and Harold leaned over her and he kissed her dry lips and he said her name; and she took his hand in hers, her gossamer touch and her fingers stroking; and it looked like love and it was love, and there were tears in his eyes even as sleep overtook him and tears in her eyes as she listened to him sleeping. And Ursula said she was sorry, her words all whisper and breath and sigh, but she never said what she was sorry for and Harold never heard anyway.

First Place: Rainbows for Coppers

Third Place: Summary