Umber (54.2 — The Death Certificate)

October 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Sounding insulted, the voice said, “Certainly not!  My vocation is to sustain life, not end it!”

I understood then that the voice must be coming from the signature at the bottom of the document.  In the space marked “Attending Physician” someone had written “Francis Smythe. M.D.”

“Oh,” I said, suddenly very weary from the weight of all the troubles of the umber-colored people.  “It says she died of influenza.  I hope she didn’t suffer.”

“Well, of course she suffered, and I suffered watching her.  She was a good woman.  A lovely woman.  I tried to convince her to marry me, but she was a Catholic, and couldn’t marry again once she had been divorced.  If she had married me, I’d have made certain that she never had to work again, unless she wanted to.  She wanted to travel, and talked as if she were planning a trip when she came down with the Asian flu.  Nasty business.  Killed a lot of people.

“So, how was it–at the end, I mean?”

“”At least it was fairly fast.  She took ill quite suddenly, and went downhill rapidly.  She was in and out of a coma.  Her daughter arrived just in time to speak with her before the end.  I was in the room with her.  She said a few words to each of us. then raised her hand and pointed at the window.  She smiled, and said, “There he is, can you see him?”  Of course, we saw nothing there.  I suppose she might have been seeing her ex-husband; I think she always carried a torch for him.  Anyway, those were the last words she said to anyone.”

“So that’s it?” I said.  “That’s it?  She worked hard all her life, never went to France, never remarried, just got old and died?!”

“Well, she wasn’t so old,” the death certificate said.  “She was only fifty-six.”


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