by Marie Mastracci
My sister sits on a decaying log with laced fingers supporting her head; her voice breaks into the still air, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” There is no other sound to compete with the prayer, no chirping birds, no scurrying squirrels, no rushing feet. The smell of running sap and mountain streams reminds me of long afternoon hikes and packed lunches but this is not a time for reminiscing. I look down at my mother lying on a bed of fireweed and kneel at her side; my breath stops in my throat but her struggling lungs expand again and I sigh with relief.
Her blue eyes slowly appear between scored eyelids; she presses her lips together in the familiar smile and a tear appears at the corner of one eye. A whisper is carried on her next breath and I lean closer. “It’s time,” she says.
Her body sinks deeper into the ground and her relaxing face alarms me. “Please, mum,” I say, “hang on a little longer.” I wonder if she sees fear when she looks into my eyes.
The sudden clanging surrounds us. Hands reach around my waist from behind and I grasp for a non-existent tree limb, wildflowers, anything to hold me back from being dragged away from my mother - and out of my dream.
I grope for the phone and hear my sister catch her breath a world away. “Mum’s gone,” she says.