DESPERATE TIMES – M. Stone

oldmanwater

Millie rapped on the window, the glass cool beneath her knuckles. The girl outside looked up at the sound and paused. Her small russet-colored dog tugged at its leash. Millie beckoned to the girl, barely able to contain her excitement. She knew it must seem strange—an old woman wearing a floral print house dress, waving like a child—but the girl, probably a student at the university, picked up her dog and hurried toward Millie’s apartment. Before she could knock, Millie opened the door. “Oh, I’m so glad you came!”
The girl frowned. “Are you okay? Do you need help?”
Millie beamed and opened the door wider. “No, no, nothing like that, dear. Won’t you please come in?”
The girl blinked in confusion. “I’m sorry—why were you waving at me? I thought something was wrong.”
Millie laughed, but the sound was hollow to her ears. “I see you walking your dog every afternoon, and you look like such a sweet girl. I live here all by myself, and it’s hard for me to get around these days.” The girl shifted her weight from one foot to the other, and the dog began to wriggle in her arms. “I was hoping you could run a few errands for me—nothing that would take a lot of time.”
The girl sniffed and wrinkled her nose as if she smelled something foul. “I wish I could, but I have classes and work…” She took a step backward.
“I’ll be happy to pay you!” Millie called even as the girl shook her head and slipped away.
Millie closed the door and wrapped her arms around her skeletal frame. Her son emerged from his room down the hall. Like Millie, he was weak from lack of food, but he had more color in his cheeks. For close to a month now, their meals had consisted of watered-down bone broth, and she always gave him some of her share.
“Who were you talking to just now?” he demanded.
Millie ran her palms over her silver hair. “A neighbor.”
“Mother, you cannot hunt where you live,” he said. “You taught me that!”
Millie looked around the shadowy apartment, avoiding his accusing stare. “I know, I know.”
He sighed and placed a heavy hand on her shoulder. “I’ll figure something out, I promise.”
Millie nodded and waited until he left the room before she returned to her vigil at the window. “But I’m hungry,” she whispered.

 

 

 

M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in San Pedro River Review, UCity Reviewformercactus, and numerous other journals. Find her on Twitter @writermstone and at writermstone.wordpress.com.

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