I don’t feel well.
That’s not strictly true, but it is what I say.
Nobody asks me – in what way are you unwell? They just think, old lady’s ills, what can you expect, bones creak, stomach leaks, who knows what they think? They’ll send my grandchild in her bright red cloak and a basket of goodies. Do they bother to come themselves? No, send the girl. Well, sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t.
I say I don’t feel well, because I can’t find the words to say it differently. It frightens me to search for them. It is only that there is nothing.
I cannot think to bother to bake, or garden, or appreciate the sunshine. My bed is musty with too much sweat, but I cannot leave it. To have the covers pulled up to my chin, it both freezes me and numbs me. It is better to be numb than find the words to say where I ache. It is better to be numb than say my life is in a deep place where I cannot love the thought of a new day. I do not want to say it is a heavy. Heavy, as though, the woodcutter’s big boot is squeezing my chest into hard earth. These things I cannot say. These things I do not want to think.
The child will come, wildflowers clutched in her flawless hand, her chatter over thick slabs of fresh bread and butter, sometimes it helps, but less and less. My smile will be thin, but it need not be, it is not a physical weakness that ails me.
There, I almost said it.
Listen, a knock at the door.
A heavy knock, not a child’s hand.
“Granny, it is only me. Let me in.”
Sigh. The wolf is at my door.
Even he thinks I am senile with age, that I cannot tell his voice is a thunderstorm to my grandchild’s sweet dew.
He will make a meal of me.
“Come in my sweetheart. The door is not latched.”
Kathryn Gossow is an Australian writer. Her novel Cassandra is available from Odyssey Books. Cassandra can tell the future, just like Cassandra of Troy, except she lives in 1980’s Australia. Kathryn blogs at the Fiction Fix www.kathryngossow.net
Artwork: Matthijs Maris, Study of an Old Woman, 1855-1858, public domain.