by Frank Diamond

I snag Styrofoam cups and that gnarly-ass napkin with lipstick marks from under one chair. I straighten out them old magazines and leave that newspaper just alone because you know as soon as I toss it, someone’s going to come looking for it.

News is on. Connie, at the desk taking calls from the OR, tells someone the doc says to head on up. Two leave. Four left. It’s dinner. The others are eating.

I wipe the windows. Clouds look like they’re in labor, big orange ball crowning. Birds loop around like it’s the shore. A cobweb winks at me from a corner and I reach with the duster.

I vacuum one side, then the other. Cut off the machine, dip the mop. The water’s clear—I just started—the ammonia smell drifts up my nostrils; makes my eyes tear.

“Do you want me to move my feet?”

“That’s OK, honey.”

Noticed her when I got here. Dabbing her eyes so dainty-like. Going, “Oh Fredric! Oh Fredric!” Soft. Like she’s Jackie O and shit. Fellow’s patting her, rubbing her back, and that might be Fredric’s brother, or it might be a friend of the family, or it might be Mr. Off-Limits, but doesn’t matter. She ain’t going to play widow too long.

He gives me the quick dead-eye and I slap a “fuck you, too” right back. Our moment. There she goes again. “I don’t know what I’ll do without him. He’s got to survive.”

Why? So you can kill him for real? Wanting this, and that, and this, and that, and—of course—fucking this. Meanwhile, old Fredric’s pumping like a hamster on a wheel.

Whoa! Look at that. Just look. My God. I never seen the sun so big. It’s like how I used to want to paint it back in art school. Back before the kids and before the bullshit. Look at it. I am aching, like I’m with flu.

“Isn’t that beautiful!” she says behind me.

“Certainly is,” I whisper, leaning against the mop.

Frank Diamond has 30 years writing and editing experience for newspapers, magazines, and television, and is currently the managing editor of Managed Care Magazine. Diamond has released a novel, The Pilgrim Soul, and a short story collection, Damage Control. He’s had hundreds of articles and columns published in outlets including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Bulletin. His short stories have appeared in Innisfree, Kola: A Black Literary Magazine, Dialogual, and the Zodiac Review. His poems have appeared in Philadelphia Stories, Fox Chase Review, Black Bottom Review, and Feile-Festa. Diamond lives in Langhorne, Pa.