“At Risk” by Joan Wilking

waverly-beach-docks-At Risk
“Waverly Beach Docks” by Allen Forrest, oil on canvas

I think a lot about ghosts these days. They feel closer than ever: my mother trailing the scent of her favorite summer perfume, my father’s puckish smile, the friends who died young and the ones who died, almost, but not quite old, some by misadventure, some by disease. That end feels too close, the claustrophobia of old age. The off ramp to God only knows where, makes me wish I believed.

The black and yellow signs on the road say, Uneven Pavement – Pass at Your Own Risk. There is only the one road in and out of the Neck. The old road has been ground down, waiting to be resurfaced after a winter that was so severe it turned the asphalt into rubble.

My childless friends are obsessed with their dogs. They post pleas for help for one animal shelter after another. One posted pictures of her dog on its birthday and then thanked friends, on the dog’s behalf, for their best wishes. So many of us, turn seventy this year. My daughters wanted to throw a party. I said no. So they will come to surprise me with something we will do together, alone.

I’m on my way to the farmer’s market. There was the smell of lilac and viburnum in the air when I left the house. A fog bank lay so low and thick on the Bay that I couldn’t see the water. The tops of trees on the other side were still visible, grayed out, like a ghostly mountain range.

At the market, an herbalist is set up under a white tent. She has pink streaks in her hair. She sizes me up and says, You might like to try the burdock root. The placard propped up against the jar says it good for easing the pain of arthritis and rheumatism. You brew it. It makes quite a nice tea, she says.

 

 

Joan Wilking has had short fiction published in The Atlantic, Bellevue Literary Review, The Barcelona Review, Other Voices, The Mississippi Review, Ascent, The MacGuffin, Hobart, The Huffington Post, The Santa Fe Writer’s Project Journal and many other literary magazines and anthologies online and in print. Her story, Deer Season, was a finalist for the 2010 Nelson Algren Short Story Competition of the Chicago Tribune. Her essay, Too Soon, is in the May 2014 issue of Brevity. Her essay Sunday Times is online at The Manifest Station and her short story, Clutter, in the Elm Leaves Journal is a Pushcart Prize nominee.

Read an interview with Joan here.

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