Thursday, 2 May 2013

Tendering Her Resignation - Friday Flash

She gingerly lifted the soiled bandage from her shin, but still her mother winced with the discomfort. Even the faintest friction from the lint must have caused her pain, while the sting of fresh air inroading against the denuded skin could only ratchet up the agony further. She glanced at the bandage and saw the telltale red corona imprinting the white cotton. She averted her gaze and for a moment commuted it in her mind's eye as a white napkin bearing a fresh lipstick kiss before a date.

She refocused her vision and saw that her mother's ulcer was weeping again now that the compression bandage had been lifted. She started massaging her toes for her. It was the closest locus away from the wound she could caress without prompting further suffering in her mother. Tears were welling up behind her own eyes.

Gazing upon her leg it seemed as though the sore was boring through the layers of skin. But she knew the opposite dynamic was at work. Failings in the blood supply within, had starved the skin of oxygen and thereby corrupted the integrity of its tissue. A parochial suffocation.

She tore her gaze away from the suppurating wound and instead scrutinised the veins and arteries around her mother's ankles. The red and blue capillaries were raised right to the surface of her skin, like oxygen starved fish in a waterhole receding under a fierce orange sun. The reds and blues put her in mind of a road atlas, the major trunk routes and motorways out of the city. A spaghetti nexus of escape arteries that she had never taken. Held here in place by her mother's immobility and venous constriction. Her mother splayed out on her bed there, like a catafalque. Yet it might be she herself having her coffin drawn along by hearse to the cemetery at the city limits. Her body undertaking the longest journey of her life and breaching the confines of the city only once in death. As she disposed of the soiled bandage, she apprehended that it could never be lipstick, only ever blood and purulence.

It hadn't always been like this she was certain. She had seen the family portraits. Delicate colour photos sweated behind the dividing wax leaves of an old fashioned album, that suggested it was consonant with the days of sepia tints. But the evidence was still there in place. A porcelain skin so alabaster white, that the lens managed to pick out the filigree blue veins in all their delicacy. Her mother had assuredly been a beauty in her youth.

But that white skin was now bruised, burnished and livid out of all recognition. She wiped the moisture from the corner of her eye with the heel of her hand. She didn't want to get any germs on her fingers that would soon have to reapply the bandage shroud. But her good intentions were undone when she reflexively scratched her own lower leg, bringing her skin up in a chalky sheen, though there was no eruption of any efflorescence.

"Hold on Mama, I have to wash my hands clean."

As she squirted the antiseptic soap into her palms, she mused on whether the condition might be genetic. Her mother had been invalided for as long as she could remember. Certainly at an age younger than she was herself now, so that it seemed unlikely to be stalking her own vascular system. And yet her circulation had also furred up, since she rarely exercised save for errands after fresh food, clean bandages and repeat prescriptions.

Anti-septic was right. She had allowed herself to be contaminated by the stasis of her mother's plight. Caring and tending had made her utterly dependent on her mother's stagnant rhythms. She was actually the sore and her mother the lint pressing her down. She didn't mean to, but when she applied a new bandage, she pushed it with a bit more force than normal. Her mother cried out.

"I'm sorry Mama, so so sorry."

taken from the Flash Fiction collection "Long Stories Short" available on Amazon Kindle free to download 3rd-7th June


Helen said...

Poor girl! The stresses of being a carer are hard.

Li said...

Very painful commentary on the effects of aging and disease on both the patient and the caretaker. Right on the mark.

pegjet said...

To think, the ulcer was on the inside.

The second to the last paragraph surprised me.

Your word choices are always so fresh and accurate. "..a spaghetti nexus of escape arteries" along with the whole imagery of roads/veins and the idea of the road not traveled...tight writing.

Katherine Hajer said...

Next time someone extols the benefits home care, I'm directing them to this story. The wearing-down of the care-giver, the knock-on health effects, and the isolation of the patient are illustrated wonderfully here. Great piece.

Tony Noland said...

Being a care-giver is a hard, hard road to walk.

John Wiswell said...

It all seems to be taking an awful toll upon her. How will she relieve it?

Larry Kollar said...

It's almost a truism that the caregiver often dies before the afflicted one. Fighting that resentment, of being trapped in this cycle of co-dependency, has to be one of the hardest things to cope with. Great piece.

Deanna Schrayer said...

What supreme imagery in this Marc! It's both heartbreaking and horrific at once. I especially like "The red and blue capillaries were raised right to the surface of her skin, like oxygen starved fish in a waterhole receding under a fierce orange sun."
Fantastic story!

Eric J. Krause said...

Quite a powerful story with great descriptions. Excellent parallel between her mother's health condition and it's hereditary path - the disease in the mother dragging them both down.

Virginia Moffatt said...

Great, great title and so well realised. Powerful.

Chuck Allen said...

That would be a tough situation to go through. And you captured it so well with your clever word play imagery.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Aw this is a really sad story, and you can see the pain the daughter is going through, as much as the pain of the mother.

Hawksword said...

Clever, clever wordplay in the title.
This was not quite what I was expecting. But it brings home to me how being a carer can crush the life out of you.