MARIE’S LAST GRASP • by Ijasan Adelehin

I am a bitch, always have been. I have, in fact, always taken a malicious pride in it. It is what I believe has guided me through life–three failed marriages and the death of one son. Where other women would have cracked and had themselves ferried off to padded cells, I have stuck to it, struggling through life as a traveler struggles through a blizzard.

Now I lie on my deathbed, bitter as a wounded lioness in an abandoned lair. In my crooked fingers a cigarette dangles, and the smoke from its glowing tip obscures me.

I hate the smoke now that it feels like pins and needles in my throat, but I need it too much to bother. I need it to banish the reek of my disease.

From the other room I can hear my nurse climaxing. The walls are thin, and I can make out every filthy word she’s using. Now, that’s a typical bitch: She’s not been in my room in two days; my sheets need changing; my sores are screaming for a change of gauze.

“Momma,” my dead son says, pacing nervously. Even in death, he’s a nervous wreck, this kid. I favour him my most malignant stare, and hurriedly he backs off. He’s a scaredy cat.

“Wont be long now,” I say, my voice something like the rev of an old Volkswagen.

Suddenly there’s a flash of light. At first I’m confused, then I see: It’s the angel returned. He had barely embodied when he turned on my son in exasperation: “By heavens, what is taking you so long?”

“She… she won’t–” my boy stammers. A bag of nerves that one, didn’t I already say?

The angel turns on me. He says, “Jeez woman, it’s been eighty years. What more–”

“Shut your trap, you stork!”

I might be an old bag but no one raises his voice to me, angel or no. “Your boss gave me eighty good years, what’s a few minutes more to him?”

The angel succumbs. Cowed, he shakes a cigarette out of his pack and lights it with a snap of his fingers. He exhales with a sigh, the ceiling filling with blue smoke.

“Bodily forms, bodily desires, right?” my dead son ventures disapprovingly. The angel ignores him.

After a while, my nurse comes in, laughing. I can see the scruffy face of her boyfriend behind her. Playfully, she tries to close the door on him. He lunges in, pinching her butt, making her squeal delightedly. I envy them–so young, so full of life.

“Marie, Marie,” my nurse coos softly, after ridding the room of her partner. She saunters to the side of my bed, clipping her nostrils with her fingers. One breast, glittering with sweat, hangs loose from her blouse. Its roseate nipple is puckered and quite erect.

“See, you’ve messed up the bed again, eh? Marieeee–”

But I’ve been awaiting this moment for almost two days. Planning it, editing it! With my final strength, I lunge forward. An explosive burst–the lash of a previously quiescent cobra.

“–eeeeeee!” she shrieks as I catch her exposed nipple between an arthritic thumb and forefinger. I pinch as hard as I can and twist it counterclockwise.

Then I fall back, panting raggedly like a dog on a hot day.

God, I’m spent. I can hear her fleeing and screaming. I hope she’s bleeding.

“Can we go now, ma?” my dead son asks.

“Yes, baby,” I whisper, a smile widening my face.

“Pah! It’s about time!” the angel exclaims, snuffing out his cigarette.

Ijasan Adelehin writes in Nigeria.

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