the circle

I lit a cigarette under a lot lamp, and noticed I had three shadows….”


by ed markowski



I fed my mother a cup of pudding, teaspoon by teaspoon, over the course of an hour

The Filipino nurse came in to treat her bedsores.

I left the room. I stood next to a withered man who was sleeping in a wheelchair.

The Filipino nurse came out five minutes later, shaking her head.

I went back in. Mother had died.

The Filipino nurse and two aides cleaned her, then they drew a sheet over her.

I called my big sister.

“Oh shit,” she said, “I knew I should have stayed.”

I called our baby sister in Chicago.

“I’ll be there Tuesday morning,” she said.

I called the funeral home.

A man said, “I’ll be there to pick up the body by midnight.”

I called my wife.

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Are you ok?” she asked.

I went back to the room, and lowered the sheet to mother’s shoulders.

Her mouth was frozen open. Her cheeks were still warm. I kissed her forehead.

I sat down and turned on the television. I watched Shaquille O’Neal brick two free throws.

The Filipino nurse walked in. She handed me a document. “Are you ok?” she asked.

I signed the document under a line that read “T.O.D. 9:55 pm 6 / 11 / 06.”

The Filipino nurse left.

The aides came back. They hugged me. They asked who was winning the game.

“Dallas,” I said. “Dallas is smoking them,” I said.

The thin aide said, “I’m sick of Shaq.” The short aide smiled and booed.

I thanked them for taking good care of mother. I gave them mother’s chocolates.

They opened the box before they hit the threshold. The thin aide turned and asked if it was tacky.

“What?” I asked.

“Is it tacky to eat your momma’s candy like two pigs in her presence?”

“Hell no. Go for it,” I said. “My mother would’ve thought you waited too long.”

I kissed mother again, and walked to the nurses station.

The Filipino nurse said, “We all enjoyed your mother.”

I said, “Our family has some very close Filipino friends.”

“What is the Filipino family’s name?”

“Florindo. Rosita, Rosalita, and Ed Florindo,” I said.

“Florindo! The Florindos are a very wealthy family.”

I said, “Not these Florindos. These Florindos sell melons on a street corner in Detroit.”

The Filipino nurse said, “No, not the same family, but Filipinos anyway.”

I said, “I love pancit, lumpia, Filipino squid, and chicken in adobo.”

“It’s very good that you love pancit. Pancit is the national dish.”

I said, “I love Asian food, I even love Asian food that’s half Spanish.”

Then I walked out to the parking lot to wait for my wife.

I lit a cigarette under a lot lamp, and noticed I had three shadows.

I checked behind me to see if there were three lamps. No, just one.

I noticed that only my center shadow moved.

I shrugged it off.

I checked again. The center shadow moved when I moved.

I shrugged it off.

I checked again. The center shadow moved when I moved.

Were the flanking shadows my dead parents? I filed that thought away.

My wife turned into the parking lot.

She was crying.

“Your poor mother. Your mother was a saint. What a great mother-in-law. I loved her.”

She kissed me.

We walked into the nursing home, and sat with mother.

The aides came in.

The four of us watched the last five minutes of the basketball game.

Shaq bricked three more free throws.

At 11:45, the man from the funeral home arrived.

Blue suit, perfect hair, and shiny wingtips.

I asked if he needed a hand moving mother.

“She looks to be about eighty pounds. I’ve loaded four hundred pound men by myself.”

My wife and I walked out to the parking lot.

We watched the man with the van, and mother, roll into the street and head east.

“Regrets?” my wife asked.

“None,” I said.

She walked to her car and drove away.

I stared at my three shadows.

“How does it feel to be on your own?” he sang from a passing Mustang convertible.

Now I knew.

And I knew that with the last teaspoon of pudding,

The circle was complete.

Originally published:
Issue Forty-Six
December 2006



Ed Markowski lives and writes in Auburn Hills, Michigan. More of Ed’s stories can be found in the Vault of Smoke.

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