She moved her head an inch²a gossamer inch, ever so slightly²off the pillow, until her dry cracked lips touched the dry starched linen of the bed sheet. Amatted wisp of hair, gray and oily in its disuse, fell in front of her eyes. She had notthe energy to brush it away from her face, but let it stay there, tickling²taunting² slowly.Her leg, thin and varicose-veined, dangled over the edge of the bed. The(now faded red) bed sheet twisted round it like a barber¶s pole²red and white,faded dusty color on faded dusty skin. The minutes ticked by, unforgiving soldiersmarching on²blindly.
Whose orders did they follow?
she thought, angrily. Sheremembered when her legs had been white and not transparent. She rememberedwhen the bed sheet¶s red was not faded, but proud in its garish glory. Sheremembered all this from a time before. But minutes²days²years²wereunceasing soldiers. It had been folly to think that she could fight against them² she, when no others could. Not the belles she¶d envied, whose rich locks of brownand gold had turned to white and gray; not those spry gentlemen she¶d dancedwith«
What a word. It was like honeyed water, dripping slowly,torturously before a parched traveler²out of reach, far away²and when youreached for it, gone.A cough forced its way through her frailty. She seized up in pain, thenstilled. Moving never helped.A minute passed. Stubbornly she kept her wrinkled eye open, scanning theroom back and forth with bad, desperate vision²she was the man on the edge of acliff barely hanging on, prey encircled by predator with nowhere else to go.Insistently, she
blink, though she knew sometime, she would have to fall, be killed and eaten. Then she heard the clock tick once more.Wobbling on the bed¶s edge, she allowed²she had no energy to
²her leg¶s descent, sloth-like in its speed, but jarring in its movement, as though shewere a rock climber in freefall. Her foot, her useless twisted gray cracked
, hitthe floor. She winced, clutching the sheet as though it were a climber¶s rope.Fondly she remembered those towering peaks her brother liked to climb. Theycalled him crazy then, before he won the medals. Then they liked him. She smiledas she thought of it, and glanced up at the wall where she saw the medals glint.