Tuesday, March 05, 2013

ONE WAY TICKET - a short story

ONE WAY TICKET by Margaret Muir

Edith Selby smiled, as she touched the faces in the photograph album. Tiny mouths, half hidden behind clouds of pink fairy floss, smiled back at her.
Claire’s cup rattled, when she placed it on the saucer.
“Do be careful, dear,” Edith said.
“I’m trying, Gran, but it’s not easy.” She sighed. “I wish Steve were here.”
Edith closed the album.
“You know I don’t like a fuss, dear. Goodbyes are such silly things. Whenever your granddad and I went anywhere, we always liked to slip away quietly without telling anyone.”
Claire sniffed. “But I don’t want you to go.”
“I’m sorry, dear, my mind is made up. And I couldn’t let that nice young man down who make all the arrangements.”
“You could if you wanted,” said Claire adamantly, getting to her feet. “And besides, that nice young man is old enough to be my father.”
“Well, dear, when you get to my age, they all look young.”
Edith sipped her tea.
“You and Steve have been so good to me,” she said. “Letting me live here for the past six months. But the children are growing up so quickly and …..”
“And they love you,” said Claire.
“And I love them too,” sighed Edith. “But its time for me to go - and to be quite honest I will not miss the hot summers.”
Claire shook her head. “Oh, Gran!”
“Look, dear, you know my reasons. Maybe if your granddad was alive, things would be different.”
The phone rand, interrupting them.
Claire answered it.
“Hello! – No, she won’t change her mind.” She handed the phone to her grandmother. “It’s Mum,” she said.
Edith sat down, smiling into the telephone.
“Jennifer, how nice of you to ring again. No, don’t worry. Everything will be fine – that nice young man has assured me there will not be any problems.”
She listened.
“Not at all, dear, in fact I am getting quite excited. Remember to give my love to the boys.” She took a deep breath. “Goodbye dear. Goodbye.”
She held the received to her ear until the line went dead.
It was almost eleven.
“Isn’t it time we were going, dear?”
Claire nodded and reached for her bag and keys. After one final look around the room, Edith followed her granddaughter to the car.
* * *
It was almost midday when the four-wheel drive rolled to a stop in the car park. Tears were pouring down Claire’s cheeks “Gran, I will miss you so much.”
Edith squeezed her hand sympathetically.
“My little Claire,” she said. “You must remember, it is my life and I can decide what I want to do with it.”
A man appeared from the building and strolled across the tarmac to greet them.
“Look, dear,” said Edith. “It’s that nice young man.” She touched her hair. “How do I look?”
“You look fine,” said Claire, wiping her face.
“You don’t have to come in with me.”
“Yes, I do, Gran.”
“Alright, I suppose you do.”
Gordon Richie opened the passenger door.
“Good morning, Mrs. Selby,” he said, offering Edith his hand.
She smiled coyly. “You can call me, Edith.”
“Right on time, Edith,” he said.
“I don’t like to be late.” She paused and looked up. The sky was powder blue and cloudless save for the vapour trail from an aircraft. The sweet scent of gardenias drifted across the car park. Bees hummed around the waxy petals.
“Isn’t it a perfect day?” she said.
“It certainly is.” Gordon Richie waited patiently while Edith looked around.
“Now I’m ready,” she said.
“Are you sure?”
“Then will you allow me?” Gordon Richie said, offering her his arm and escorting her across the car park.
“Such a nice young man,” she said, as she glanced back.
Claire followed them into the building allowing the door to close quietly behind her.
At the entrance a new brass plaque glinted in the sun.
Engraved on it were the words:

Dr. Gordon Richie
Euthanasia Clinic
By appointment only

* * *

This is a condensed version of the short story which seems appropriate at a time when Tasmania, the Australian state in which I live, is pushing for legalization of voluntary euthanasia.
This story will appear in a collection of short pieces - both poetry and prose to be published shortly under the title - WORDS ON A CRUMPLED PAGE
Pic: Morning mist over the Tamar Valley from my home in Northern Tasmania

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