Impetus of the Soul: Part 1

3 10 2011

Mom, It’s Beth again. Sorry I haven’t been by in a while. Have you started taking the pills Dr. Irving prescribed for you? You really should, it’s just not right what you’re doing to yourself. What would dad say if he were here? Anyway, Jim and I are thinking of applying for the program. It’s kind of scary, but I think it would be pretty exciting. We were thinking maybe you could apply too, you know, after you get better. Just take the pills, mom. Call me.

Carol continued brushing her dull hair, ignoring the antiquated answering machine that sat on the pedestal half-table near the door. Gray streaks had infiltrated her once bright auburn hair over the years much to her daughter’s chagrin. Beth’s efforts to convince her mother to dye it had intensified since Mike’s passing three years previous, but Carol continued to refuse. Mike had never cared and she had never been vain enough to think it mattered.

She set the brush down on the vanity carefully and looked into the mirror. Her rugose skin, almost the color of translucent ivory, shone under the light of the semi-circle of soft-light bulbs adorning the mirror. She had been very beautiful once, or so the young men had told her way back then. It was nice to hear, of course, but those sentiments had always seemed so shallow to her. Mike had been different. What was it he used to say? “The impetus of the soul will always push away the trappings of the corporeal.” She smiled as she thought it, even as her eyes swam with warmth.

She opened a small drawer beneath the mirror and pulled out a tarnished key. With it she opened the small chest sitting on the left-hand side of the vanity. The felt-lined interior held several photographs and folded papers. She picked up the photo lying on the top. The edges were starting to get dog-eared and worn. Regardless of how careful she was, it was difficult for her gnarled fingers to hold it. It was a picture of Mike in his younger years with his usual cat-that-ate-the-canary grin. His hair was disheveled and his collar hung recklessly open around his neck.

She held the photo close to her chest and closed her eyes. If she concentrated hard enough, she could imagine his arms around her shoulders, the reassuring smell of his cologne filling up her senses. She could almost imagine that he was still there. The comfort she felt from this precarious grasp of his memory was always too fleeting to keep the knot of emptiness from clutching her heart. The pain was deep and left her short of breath. Reluctantly, she replaced the memento, shut the lid and secreted the key into its hidden drawer.

Walking slowly, but steadily into the sitting room, Carol noticed the brochure and the bottle of pills that Beth had left on the top of her upright piano. Funny. Carol never thought about her age except when she looked at that clutter. She ought to put them away or, better yet, throw them away, she told herself. But there was a part of her that was tempted. It was like Eve taking the apple from the serpent and keeping it in her purse just in case she ever got hungry enough to bite it. She laughed aloud at that thought and shook her head. The whole world had gone crazy. Was she the only sane person left in it?

There the brochure sat with the pill bottle collecting dust. She had politely glanced through it that day when Beth had brought it by. She didn’t need to read it; she knew what all that sunshine and fluff was trying to sell. The fountain of youth; Ponce de Leon had searched for it, Joan Rivers had faked it, Kurzweil had prophesied it, but now it was here. Immortality in a bottle.

To be continued . . .

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