The Living Living

Want me to write a book? You get to pick it! I’ll be posting snippets from the dozen or so I have been working on, and you’ll pick which one I finish! More details will be on the way in the coming weeks.

This post is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people or events would be just plain weird.


Donald squinted his eyes shut hard, balled his hands into fists, and thrust his four appendages out in all directions as if he were tied to a torture wheel.

He really didn’t want to get up. It was warm and cozy underneath the cotton sheets and the soft quilt. She just wouldn’t let go of that quilt. The white had faded to a cream, and the squares and triangles that made up the sunrises had popped their seams so many times that Dottie’s hand-stitches almost outnumbered the factory ones. In all honesty, though, those big even stitches with all yellow thread made Donald love the quilt a little bit too.

The sun had started to rise. It warmed the bedclothes and made it that much harder to get out of bed. Donald was blessed by the fact that he’d be able to go in a little late today. He had already worked twelve hours yesterday, and he only had to work twenty-eight more in the next four days to get in his government-mandated forty. His contract wasn’t paying overtime, so he wouldn’t be allowed to stay any longer. It wasn’t really a big deal; he and his sweet wife weren’t in need of money. Time at home was much more important than time making money.

The sunbeams sneaking between the blinds and splashing across his left fist were warm. It felt so good. Did he really have to go to work?

Yeah, he did. They had a handful of servers left to rack. The world wouldn’t fall apart without the work done, but it would sure be nice to get them ahead of the game that week. Besides, he didn’t want to be the only one on his team to not show up to help. He’d catch heck for it on Wednesday.

These were all thoughts that were standard issue for a weekday morning. Donald only had four more years until retirement; and, like a Presidential race, he would sometimes say in his head, “Four more years… four more years…” He was more than ready. He wanted to spend every day of the rest of his life with his wife.

He finally gave up the fight and swung his legs around to the left, sitting up, rubbing his face hard with both hands. While he continued to rub with his right, he reached for his glasses on the nightstand with his left. He would make it to the bathroom and the shower without them, but they seemed to help him improve his aim.

“Donnie?” The covers on the bed didn’t move. “Donnie? Honey?”

“Yes, Sweetie. I’m right here.”

“Oh Donnie, come on, come back to bed.”

“I have to go to work, Sweetie.”

There was a pregnant pause… a very pregnant pause… more pregnant than Dorothy had been in many years. Donald held his breath. He didn’t want this morning to be a bad one.

“Please?” It was almost the whisper of a child.

“Sweetie, I won’t be gone long. I promise. I have a short day today.”

Another long pause filled the air between them.

Dorothy slowly sat up in bed. She put her hands limply in her lap on top of the quilt. She looked at Donald, and her lip started to tremble. Here we go, he thought. He didn’t want to go through this this morning. Really though: he didn’t want her to go through this. The Alzheimer’s had just started wrinkling her at the corners, and every little symptom of it completely broke Donald’s heart. He didn’t want to live without her. He didn’t know how much time would be left until she was gone.

Pushing that thought from his mind, he instead plastered a big, wide smile across his face. “Braum’s after work?” He asked warmly. Give her something to look forward to—something to think about, the doctor had said. Donald thought of it more as a distraction to let him go about his morning routine, which brought a twang of guilt; but it usually worked.

“Ice cream,” she said, then lifted her breath up and dropped it in a heavy sign. Dorothy bowed her head and looked at her hands. Then, incredibly, from her lowered face appeared a smile. “Ice cream sounds nice.”

“It’s a date then,” Donald said. “Sleep some more, Honey. Jenny will be here in a little bit to spend some time with you. Then, when I get home from work, we’ll go to Braum’s. Let’s go on a date.”

Dorothy didn’t respond this time. She laid back down, on her side, facing away from him.

Donald heaved a huge sigh in his brain, not wanting to make a sound or erroneous movement that would stall this momentum. He made a gentle bound towards the bathroom and tugged the door smartly so that it wouldn’t make the slow-moving squeak.

After pulling on an older pair of jeans and a decent-looking t-shirt (they would most definitely be crawling around under the floor today), Don popped open the garage and fired up the Trailblazer. After his neighbor’s kid came really close to swiping him as he backed out of his driveway a few years ago, David had started backing the car into the garage. It was way, way easier to back in when he came home than to back in when he left—not to mention less nerve-wracking.

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About Susan Pitman

Susan is an artist who grew up in Massachusetts and now lives in Texas. She writes songs, short stories, and books. You can follow @susanpitman143 on Twitter.

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