Kevin’s father stares out the window at the clouds rolling in instead of the photo album Kevin brings today, cracking it open next to his bed, thinking it would help. Plastic pages unstick from each other as he turns the frozen moments, but no one is watching. The nurse says tomorrow might be better, that he’s not having a good day. Yesterday was worse. Day-to-day is hard to predict at this point. Strangely, month-to-month is easier. The coming years, if he gets them, all but certain.

Not that any day now is anywhere near good. The forgetting is getting worse. Good days, Kevin knows, are just quieter, pass faster. Bad days feel endless, are full of outbursts and fits—tantrums from a grown man stuck in a present he no longer feels welcome in. It’s not his fault. Kevin knows this. It’s not anyone’s fault. Kevin thinks to himself It is what it is and hates it less than when others say it, though he can’t recall if anyone has said it about his father. It’s after visiting hours now, and he needs to come back another time. He isn’t sure what the hours are, when he can, or if he wants to just yet.

A mist begins to fall as he walks to the car. He stops, remembers the forgotten album on the check-in desk left on his way out, looks back and sighs—the nurse already holding it up, blurred through the wet window next to the revolving door. She’s waving. If time froze, it would look like saying hello or goodbye, though it’s really neither—the same with these visits.

Back home across the couch, bathed in the TV’s bright-then-dim splashes he isn’t watching, Kevin calls his dog’s name. The dog lifts her head in the dull glow, meets his eyes, waits to see what happens next. But Kevin has nothing more to say, is tired, is out of words and ideas. He can’t remember when she last went out and it worries him. He can’t remember how many things he’s forgotten recently. It’s a cold and steady rain outside anyway, and he doesn’t know if he wants to walk her just yet. He hopes it’ll blow over or clear up soon.

In the silence that lingers, the dog lays her head back down between her paws, lets out a sigh. For now, something left in Kevin’s life remembers its own name. On the TV, the weather forecast drones. It predicts the rain will freeze to ice overnight and into the morning. A green, blue, and purple shape slides over the state line getting closer as it grows across the screen—a widening bruise blotting out what’s waiting below. It is, he knows, what it is.

Kevin sighs too and tries, for a moment, to forget what tonight or what tomorrow—or what any future—might bring.

Aaron Sandberg

Aaron Sandberg will remember memento mori later. He’s appeared or is forthcoming in Asimov’s, No Contact, I-70 Review, Alien Magazine, The Shore, Plainsongs, West Trade Review, The Offing, Sporklet, Right Hand Pointing, Halfway Down the Stairs, and elsewhere. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, you can see him—and his writing posts—on Instagram @aarondsandberg

If I Didn’t Have My Thousand Acres

The old man tells me, “If I didn’t have my thousand acres,

I would die.” He doesn’t realize he is in the hospital

emergency waiting room. “If I didn’t have my wife,

I would die.” He looks at me sincerely, clearly unaware

of the situation at hand, his hand trembling

on the arm of his wheelchair. “She’s at home

making supper for the hired help, you know,

when they come back from driving cows to pasture.”

But he hasn’t had cattle for over thirty years,

and his acreage now only exists framed in pictures

in his small room at the nursing home where his wife

also was full of life before she died five years ago.

I know because the man’s caretaker told me

when she wheeled him in to wait, just in case

he needed to say goodbye to his daughter

rushed in by ambulance an hour before.

Aware the woman’s heart attack was massive,

I casually ask if he has any children. He hesitates,

tries to remember, then settles, “No, I don’t think so,

but if I did and anything happened to them, I would die.”

Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb

Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb is the author of the chapbook, Shapes That Stay (Kelsay Books, 2021). Her poetry has appeared in The Midwest Quarterly, Weber: The Contemporary West, About Place Journal, High Desert Journal, Clockhouse, AJN: The American Journal of Nursing,, and many other journals. She holds an interdisciplinary MA and has served in various capacities as an educator, a researcher, and an editor.

Jim Ross

By The Old Mill 2


Jim Ross

Jim Ross jumped into creative pursuits in 2015 after a rewarding career in public health research. With graduate degree from Howard University, in seven years he’s published nonfiction, fiction, poetry, photography, hybrid, and plays in over 175 journals and anthologies on five continents. Photo publications include Bombay Gin, Burningword, Camas, Columbia Journal, Feral, Stonecoast and Typehouse. Photo essays include Barren, Kestrel, New World Writing and Sweet. Jim and his wife—parents of two health professionals and grandparents of five little ones—split their time between city and mountains.

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