I’m heading into my mother’s care facility, when I see Richard in the garden smoking a cigarette. I’ve seen him there before smoking a cigarette, but I’ve never said anything about it, as I felt it was none of my business.
Then, for some reason, this time, while engaging him in a little conversation, I ask, “How many cigarettes do you smoke per day?”
“I really can’t tell you,” he answers. “I’ve been smoking for longer than I can remember.”
“I’m sure it’s not good for you,” I respond, not knowing what else to say.
“Well, it doesn’t matter now because I have terminal cancer, so I figure I may as well get a little pleasure before I leave this place!”
Feeling a bit stunned, and sad to hear the news, I ask, “When did you find out?”
“Oh, I’ve known for some time now,” he says in all seriousness. “So, that’s the way it goes!”
I think to myself, I guess he’s right. . . that it doesn’t matter now. . . that he may as well enjoy his cigarettes under the circumstances. . .
A few weeks go by, and as I haven’t seen Richard in the living room or the garden, I decide to ask one of the caregivers what she knows, even though I don’t want to hear it.
“He went to the hospital,” she informs me in a dispassionate tone. “He won’t be coming back. . .”
“So, that’s the way it goes!” I say to myself, as I continue down the hallway to visit my mother. . .
Jeffrey Zable is a teacher, conga drummer/percussionist, who plays Afro-Cuban and Afro-Haitian folkloric music for dance classes in San Francisco and Berkeley. He’s also a writer of poetry, flash fiction, and flash non-fiction. More recent publications include Ink In Thirds, Uppagus, Defuncted, Lucent Dreaming, The Mark, Alba, Corvus, and many others.