Here’s my flash fiction for this week. I will welcome your comments.
It’s Just a Job
By Laura McHale Holland
Dwane holds her ring in the palm of his hand and stares at six small diamonds circling a larger one. They all reflect the sunlight breaking through the slit where the curtains never quite close. The ring is traditional, just like her. “It’s beautiful, Margaret,” he says. She smiles, toothless, and nods as he dabs his fingertips on the smooth gold band. He stares at the treasure. It would be so easy to enclose it in his fist, slip it into his pocket and leave. As though reading his mind, she tugs on the white cuff of his jacket, takes his palm in her hands and presses it closed around the ring. She nods again and puts her index finger to her lips with a shhh. “No, dear. I can’t,” Dwane says, wishing Margaret’s last stroke hadn’t silenced her. He had enjoyed her so, and she’d seemed to genuinely care about him. She’d remembered that his wife loved white roses, that little Betts hated onions, that Jeff had just joined a soccer team—all the little details that show someone is paying attention.
He sits on the edge of Margaret’s bed, takes her left hand in his, as her groom once did, and tries to slip the ring back on the slender finger that wore it for more than half a century. She yanks her hand away, curls into a ball on the bed and starts to rock. He stands up, straightens his uniform and drops the ring in his pocket.
“I’ll see you later,” he says. “Maybe I’ll pick you up for Bingo after lunch. Would you like that, Margaret?” She rocks harder. He lifts her breakfast tray from where she’d left it, untouched, on the stand by her bed, places it on his cart, turns and leaves the room. At the end of the hall, he stops in at the nurses’ station, hands the nurse on duty the ring. She puts it in a safe and says, “Yeah, poor Margaret. She’s losing her marbles fast. Her family will appreciate this.” “I suppose they will,” Dwane replies.
Driving home after a long shift, he can’t stop tears from filling his eyes. He’s supposed to keep his distance, not get attached; it’s just a job. He’s helping people let go with dignity. That’s it. But his heart aches for Margaret as he pulls into his driveway and parks. He stays at the wheel for just a minute. The shadows of his wife and children dance on the picture window drapes as he readies to go inside and wrap each one of them in his arms.