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by Carol Reid

Erma is eighty and won’t see eighty-one. One doctor forgets to talk to the other and now it’s too late for the knife.

But she’s nimble yet. Years of two-stepping with Lem on buckled wood floors kept her light on her feet. And there was always old Chas waggling one eyebrow at her above his fiddle, trying to catch her eye.

Erma still dances alone at night, or thinks about dancing. Those tunes in her head come in loud and clear and she wouldn’t tell a soul but she feels Lem leading her when she shuts her eyes and she never bangs into a thing. Maybe her son has seen her, who knows? Roy’s quiet as a cat downstairs in his suite and the stairs don’t creak.

Geri’s coming to take her to lunch today. Erma hasn’t much appetite left but she can still taste everything, only needs a drop of honey in her black coffee.

She hauls open the back door and yells at a deer finishing off a few of the windfall apples. The air in her garden tastes rotten, with autumn settled in now. This time of year she and Lem used to head north in the camper to the bright open skies and icy lakes along the Cariboo Highway — snow like frosting on a fallen cake, ice like sugar glaze, sweet silence in the cab of the truck on the stretches where no radio came in.

That one place on the road always gave her trouble. It started the very first time they’d come round that corner and her stomach dropped, light and empty as a scooped out melon. She’d craned her neck and Lem asked her what she was looking at. Not long ago she’d seen a show about people who had other lives before this one, and parts of those lives stuck to them like lint.

Erma slips on a loose blue shirt that makes her look less yellow and hides how thin she is now. She doesn’t want to bother anybody at the café. Geri knows the details, it was her who drove Erma to and from the doctor that day. Erma’s known Geri since before she was born, she always likes to say.

She puts a few pins in her long, faded hair and twists it into a bun. Maybe today at lunch she’ll talk about those pretty places on the Cariboo Highway and ever more north to the Yukon border and Geri will pipe up, like most people do, that she’s always wanted to head up that way.

That car of hers, the Infiniti, drives like a dream.

Carol Reid lives near the north end of Highway 101. Her short stories and micro fiction have appeared in many print and online journals, most recently Writer’s BoneCamroc Press Review and Deep Water Literary Journal.