“About Future”

When our mother asks why I had my brother put down, I don’t lie, not over the phone. “I had to,” I say. “It was time.” I expect her protest—“A health issue? Was he sick?” “He was 39,” I say, like age is reason enough. “But our family lives forever,” she says. “Your great-grandmother was 96.” I know she is right, but I have to live with my decision. “He wasn’t happy,” I say. “He put on a lot of weight. Had no girlfriend, nothing. There’s no sense letting him suffer.” “But,” she says, and there is fear in her pause, her future plans crumbling: those few good years of retirement in Florida, walking her dogs, watching cable news. I might’ve even offered her our spare room, but her politics were too extreme. She’d be so much work: cooking her oatmeal for breakfast, changing her sheets, someday diapers. A nursing home would be perfect but far too expensive. And don’t forget hospice. I’m a better son than to leave her with strangers. “Plus we never talked,” I tell my mother. “He was so lonely. And 100 seems to be the new 80.” I can almost imagine the look on her face: heavy cheeks, lip shaking. “But we don’t talk much either,” she says. “What about my future?” And I say what I have to, to squelch her fears. “I should visit soon,” I say. “I can take care of you too.”

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Craig Buchner

About Craig Buchner

Craig Buchner’s short stories have appeared in Tin House, The Baltimore Review, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, and other literary journals. Craig teaches writing and lives in Portland, OR. You can find more of his work at www.craigbuchner.com.