I’m worried I’m using his death to get attention. Just like my mother did when Dad dropped dead. A massive coronary at work.  Dead before he’d hit the floor. You’d have thought, with time, her grieving might subside. It was nearly twenty years ago. Mine certainly has.

At that time, I was twelve, so there were many more years we shared a roof. But Mom persisted, dropping Dad’s name into almost every conversation. Mostly with strangers.

We’d be at the Wal-Mart checkout, Shirley rang our items. She’d give the total, “That’ll be 34.87.” Then Mom would turn to me, a look of shock on her face. And I knew what was coming. “Ever since my husband died, I swear, I’m just so darn loopy! Can you believe it? I left my purse in the car again.” Then Shirley would shake her head as mother ran out, giving me those cow eyes and say, “I’m so, so sorry.”

Well, now it’s George who up and died. The difference is he’s a child. And in a way he’s a child who never became a child. I carried him full term, took nearly twenty- four hours to deliver him. He lived less than an hour.

See, it’d be easy for me to be like Mom. Hell, she’s already used this latest tragedy to fuel her overblown need for empathy. I have to remind her, “Mom, this is not about you.”

During his funeral service, someone said that George was a blessing. I guess so. I mean, he came and went so fast it all feels like a blur now. The percocet doesn’t really help matters much. My husband, Dirk, wants to try again. Is he crazy? No way, I tell him. No. I just don’t know if I can go through that again.


About Robert Vaughan

Originally from NY, Robert leads week long National writing retreats at sites like Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Synergia Ranch, and EarthRise IONS. His poems and fiction are published in over 500 print and online magazines, such as Necessary Fiction, BlazeVOX, Los Angeles Weekly, Literary Orphans and Smokelong Quarterly. He is Editor-in-Chief at (b)OINK magazine and leads round- tables for Redoak Writing in Milwaukee. He is six times a Pushcart Prize Nominee and his fiction and poetry have won awards, including a Micro-Fiction runner-up (2012) and twice a finalist in the Gertrude Stein Fiction Award (2013-14). His books are: Microtones (Cervena Barva Press); Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps); Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms); RIFT, co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press), and FUNHOUSE (Unknown Press).
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7 Responses to Empathy

  1. Dez says:

    A beautiful, captivating portrayal of one woman’s (possibly?) worst nightmare coming true. I am amazed at how you narrow it all down to the bare bone essence of this scene. A really great piece of work, Robert. Happy New Year to you, and please continue to post these daily glimpes of complex, rich characters and scenes. They add a wonderful element to my otherwise corporate day.

  2. Tutu Ubuntu says:

    I am sobbing, just sobbing. The narrator evoked such powerful feelings in me. There are so many deaths in my country. We are all loopy here. This could be an international piece. I do not know the Walmart here.

  3. Kerry says:

    Raw, complex emotion! How does someone who hasn’t lived this scenario capture the intensity and painfulness? First the loss of a husband/father and how both the surviving spouse and child might deal with the loss and then a Mother’s loss of her newborn infant. Not a still birth and not a miscarriage… Yet, she still knew her child like no one else knew her child. She carried him for 9 months, anticipating his birth and his joining her in life, and then he’s gone… WOW! You’ve done a great job getting this on paper…

  4. Shari says:

    Oh my gosh, you have done it again! You are an incredible writer. So powerful and evocative this piece is. I felt so emotional after reading this, and had to take time for these feelings to pass. But I appreciate your wondrous point of view, the difference the narrator has about her father’s passing and her mom’s. All of the sadness about George’s death is truly honest, and I feel the same way that the narrator would- could I go through that again? Probably not.

  5. Angela says:

    Wow. My jaw dropped when the narrator spoke of carrying the child for nine months…as I had assumed it was a male character speaking. Impressive, my guy…impressive. 🙂 Love you to pieces and wishing you a joyous and peace-filled New Year…where we are fortified to keep our heads and hearts lifted up…and can inspire others to do the same! MWAH!

  6. Danny says:

    Wow this is unreal. My jaw dropped many times while reading this beautiful piece.i got the impression it was a guy telling the story.great job

  7. david says:

    you lost me at Dirk… why Dirk?/ could be Mark.. or Steve.. or Mike..

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