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Living Yesterday Tomorrow


David C. Card

The woman and her daughter sat on a bench in the porch one evening. Her complexion was brown and gently purple like bruised fruit. The skin at the corner of her eyes cracked when she blinked. A cool breeze drifted about the red, calm sky.

“I’m old, you’re young,” she said. “You’re still beautiful.”

“You’re a fine wine,” her daughter said.

“I’m vinegar.”

“Oh mother, why do have to get this way still when we talk?”

“Get what way?”

“You know what way.”

“I don’t know what way. Tell me what way.”

“It’s that subtle way you tell me I shouldn’t marry Daniel.”

“That’s nonsense.”

“Is it?”


“So this is about you?” the daughter asked.

“Yes,” her mother replied.

“And what is it about you?”

The mother looked off into the night. The sky had turned black now and silver stars covered it, dusted like crushed diamonds.

The daughter said, “Charlotte’s old enough now to know who her father is.”

“Don’t you ever listen, girl?”

“Don’t patronize me.”

“Won’t you ever listen to a word I say?”

There was silence for a long time. They both sat looking at the black sky. Only the porch and the three steps leading to the garden were lit by the overhead lamps—a box of yellow light that was so hot they didn’t feel the wind, the angry wind that they could hear fighting the trees and bushes, and rattled the plant pots.

“There’ll be a storm soon,” the mother said.

“But the sky looks so peaceful. It doesn’t seem right.”

“And this doesn’t seem right,” the mother said. They looked at each other. “And you came all this way to see me.”

They both looked off into the sky again.

“We never get along because we’re so much alike,” the daughter said.

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“It is when we fight.”

“Then let’s not fight.”

The daughter stretched her white hand out onto the bench. The mother grabbed the hand and squeezed it.

“You must be freezing?” the daughter said.


“You’re hands are shaking. Let’s go inside.”

“It’s nothing to do with the cold, dear.”

“Then what is it, mother?”

“You know I’m getting older.”

“We’re all getting older, mother. Please don’t get like this now.”

A flash of white light struck through the porch then.

“We should go inside now,” the daughter said.

“Just a little while longer.”

They had let go of each other’s hands, but the daughter kept her gaze on her mother’s hand. It was curled like a paw and shaking surely like a flower in the storm, so fragile, her fingers their petals. She looked at her mother’s face staring out into the blackness and violent sounds of the night. It was smiling.

“Why are you shaking like that?” the daughter asked.

The mother didn’t answer.


“Yes, dear?”

“Why are your hands shaking like that?”

“It must be the cold, dear.”

“But you said that it wasn’t the cold.”

“Let’s not talk now.”

“Then when should we talk, mother? Miles apart, on the telephone?”


“Then tell me.”

“I’m dying, dear.”

The daughter’s lips moved, but no sound escaped. “No,” she said finally. “No. I don’t believe you.”


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