ECHO • by AJ Smith

When I finally went to see my mom in the hospital, I was shocked at her emaciated state. She’d spent her whole life dieting and now she couldn’t keep the weight on. I could count Ma’s bones right through the thin hospital gown. God, it was hard to look at her.

She never asked why it took so long to get around to visiting. We both knew she was a poor attempt at a mother.

“Do you have cable in here?” I asked.

“Yeah. Lotsa channels, but nothin’ decent to watch. So much reality T.V. these days — Survivor, The Biggest Loser, Fear Factor. How many of these shows can a person watch? I prefer radio. Always somethin’ good on NPR.”

After we exhausted all useless chitchat, painful silence filled the room. Were there really any words left? I’d begged her so many times to leave that man.  She had an excuse for each one of his ‘incidences’.  Where was he now, as she lay withering with no hair?

I kept my head down unable to look anymore at her wasted body. I was grateful when the nurse came in and broke the uncomfortable quiet. “Ruby, you okay? You havin’ any pain?”

“No. I’m all right.”

“Your mother’s tough as nails. You know that?”

I lifted my head. My eyes found the nurse’s. There it was; that look of utter horror and disgust at my burned, scarred face. I saw her eyes try to look beyond mine.

“Sorry,” echoed in the tiny room.

AJ Smith writes poetry and short stories. She is hard at work on her first novel.

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