Bewildering Stories

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Looking for the Old Woman Who Plays Rummy

by Mark Bonica

Then I am standing in the office of the nursing home volunteer Coordinator that only exists in previous dreams. I mean to ask about the Old Woman that I used to visit to play cards with to keep her company, to fill something missing, pretending it’s about her.

She’s not in the lobby where we had dealt and folded so many other nights.

“The poet returns,” the Coordinator laughs happily. “We haven’t seen you for while.”

I try to give a rational explanation: my job moved me far away; I’m working longer hours; I’ve been gone for two years — just back here, wherever here is — for a visit. And the poetry hasn’t been flowing like it once did — not since I left. But rationality is no better in the dream world than in reality.

I don’t get a chance to ask where my card partner has gone. Has she passed away? Found another partner? My heart is pounding when I notice the macaw on the Coordinator’s shoulder like a pirate joke, its one eye cocked and pressing me.

Now she is telling me about a project she had in mind just for me, something to do with envelopes and addresses and stamps and forms — or maybe this was all surmised by me or transmitted by the macaw — it’s difficult to know.

I’m looking for the Old Woman who plays rummy by the door I want to say. The one whose presence is brittle and fertile and fleeting.

Copyright © 2005 by Mark Bonica

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