Claudia was done. She told her husband of twenty years, her three boys, and pet hedgehog Igloo that she was going to take a nap. The dishes stayed dirty in the sink, and the meat loaf and potatoes she cooked for dinner cooled on the supper table. She was tired and she was done. So, she marched up the creaky stairs, passed the shoes tossed at the bottom, shirts and sweatshirts hanging on the railing, water guns, and muscle-bound figurines. She kicked some dirty laundry strewn across the bedroom floor and plopped face down on the snagged comforter.

When her youngest son came to wake her, he nuzzled her cheek with his snotty nose. But, she didn’t move. Didn’t even lift an eyelid. She kept her eyes shut, face down.

Hours later, when her husband finally came upstairs, she stayed on top of the blankets. Her youngest boy sat on her back, turning her into a horse, using the strings from her sweatshirt as the reins.

“Claudy, wake up,” her husband mumbled. “Claudy?”

He touched her shoulder—the first real touch in months—and gave her a shake.

“Hey, wake up already,” he said. “Matty has to go to bed.”

He sighed.

“Your son needs to go to bed,” he shook her again. “Come on.”

His voice grew sharper, less patient.  Claudia didn’t budge.  Yes, she heard him.  Yes, she was awake.  She was just done and did not, could not open her eyes.

This continued into the next day—no, she did not wake up to take “her boys” to school or pack their lunches or vacuum or make her husband’s breakfast or pull his clean clothes out of the dryer and give him a requisite kiss on his way out the door. She kept her eyes shut and listened to the chaos around her, content not to move.

She did not open up eyes when the ambulance came and EMTs checked her vitals.

“There’s nothing wrong with her,” they proclaimed, ripping the blood pressure cuff from her arm.

Still, she was rushed to the hospital to have specialists stick needles in her. She didn’t flinch or flutter. Nurses crept into her hospital room at night, with one especially weary nurse whispering, “You stay asleep, girl. I don’t blame you one bit.”

So, she did, dozing in and out of the world around her. She grew used to seeing the inside of her eyelids and not having to see anything or acknowledge anybody.

Not even after she was sent back home. Not even years later when her boys grew and graduated, married and moved away. Not even after her husband stopped asking her to wake up.

Not even at the visitation they held for her and awkward eulogies from a childhood friend and distant cousin.

Only after they lowered her into the ground did she feel an urge to sit up, but she was used to the darkness and craved that silence, so she ignored the pain and slept on.



S.E. White teaches English and Honors classes at Purdue University Northwest. She has her BFA from Bowling Green State University, MA from Iowa State University, and MFA from Purdue University. She has published with The Smoking Poet, Ginosko, Toasted Cheese, Prick of the Spindle, Niche, 100 Word Story, and others. Her novella A Murder of Crows is available in paperback and Kindle versions. Her work can also be found in the Best Ohio Short Stories collection. She owns two of the best dogs around–Oscar Woolf and Daphne du Furrier.

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