Word Count 450
The Secret Becomes Known
by G. Ackman
It started out with minor incidents. Ones that happen to everyone. Ones that they would share a laugh about. Like when he could not find his keys anywhere. They looked high and low, then gave up and got the extra set. When she started to pack her lunch, she grabbed the ice pack from the freezer to put in her lunch bag, and there were his keys. He was embarrassed, but she just waved her hand. We all do those things, she told him. I once got in the passenger seat when I came out of the grocery store. I sat there for a few minutes before it dawned on me that I was driving. They laughed and moved on.
But then it became more frequent, more disruptive, more worrisome. He could not remember their grandson’s name. He no longer knew how to make coffee. He left the car running when he came back from the store. After that, she hid his keys and when he said he wanted to go somewhere, she enthusiastically wanted to go there too, and never mind, I’ll drive, she would say. Soon, his long habit of getting in the driver’s seat was replaced with him getting in the passenger seat.
She never said anything to him or to anyone else; she just quietly made sure that his life ran smoothly. She covered over his mistakes and filled in the gaps for him when he could not find the proper words. She allowed him his dignity, the greatest gift she could give.
But now, she was gone. She had kept his secret all those years and now she was gone. He stood in the middle of the room holding the red and gray….what was it?…oh yes, shirt. That was it. Shirt. He looked at it and could not see how to put it on. He picked up the phone. She had programmed all the special numbers in it and worked with him until it was second nature for him to push 1 to call her. 2 for their son. 3 for help. He looked at the phone, its numbers mocking him for a moment until he reached out a gnarled finger toward the keypad. He would call her. She would come in and help him and then maybe they could have a peanut butter cup. Those he remembered.
His finger hovered over the one, but then the kernel of himself that remained at the core of his being recognized that she would not answer and moved his finger to the 2. As he listened to the distant rings, a single tear trickled down his cheek.
At his son’s hello, he quietly said, “I need help.”