Tuesday, November 12, 2013


            She says she’s tired, but not sick, not really. “Oh, no. Just a little cough, a sniffle, but I’m fine, just fine. Feeling great!” That’s what she says, then hunches over her crossword, alone at a table across the room.
            She doesn’t look great, but then she never did. That’s what we whisper to each other. She was a plain child, we remember. Never a pretty woman. “Probably a fussy baby,” Fran says, and we laugh.
“Hard, must be hard to be so . . . so . . . plain,” Ellen says, and we all cluck sympathetically.
            Cluck. I think that’s the right word for what we do. The perfect word. Exactly right.           
            Cluck. Cluck. Cluck.
            But quietly. Kindly. Almost.
            “She really doesn’t look at all well,” Marge says.
            “But then,” begins Ellen.
            “She never did,” I finish and laugh with the others. I want to be in, not out, and I too was never a pretty woman. Professional, Ellen calls me. You look best in a suit. I notice she doesn’t say I look good in a suit.
            But she looks like a Halloween jester in a suit, like a char lady in a dress, a scarecrow in pants, and she would never wear jeans.
            We can hear her muffled cough at the next table, Kleenex to her mouth, other hand at her
forehead. We’re all watching her, waiting for her to look our way so we can nod sympathetically. Maybe one of us will smile before we go back to our clucking, and she to her crossword.
            I’m ashamed, but I don’t do anything. 

© 2013 Kathleen Coskran

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