this way and that2

This Way and That by

Hospice delivers a shiny red walker with six-inch wheels, comfort-grip handles, and locking brakes.

Tell me again how to use it, the husband says.

Hands on the handles, the wife repeats. No, the handles. Now stand. Stand. Unlock the brakes.

Why isn’t it going?

You have to push it, honey.

The bathroom—is it this way?

No, that.  

As he shuffles off in the wrong direction, the wife shrivels down to a worm. She’s lost her legs, feet, the ground she once stood upon. Soon she’ll need more than a shiny red walker to move forward, inch by inch.


Get rid of that walker, the widow’s sister says when she spots it in the closet.

I’m going to, the widow says.

Yet the walker stays in the house, traveling from the closet to the husband’s old study, then to the spare bedroom, before it ends up jammed in the laundry room.

The widow had no problem clearing out the rest of the medical equipment. But the red walker was one of the last things he had held in his hands, beyond the death grip he kept on the hospice bed rails.


The walker finds its way out to the garage, where the widow shrouds it with the blue sheet that once covered her husband’s. . . She stops right there, trying not to visualize his dead body. But all she sees is his yellowed corpse.

And the lizards. The lizards that sneak beneath the desiccated rubber seal on the garage door and dart out from behind the tool box, dried-up paint cans, and hurricane generator.

One lizard—bright green as fresh-cut grass—likes to bask atop of the shrouded walker, the crimson pouch beneath his neck expanding and contracting like a beating heart.


The widow pushes the walker into the driveway, along with other useless stuff, for the neighborhood garage sale.

No one buys it.

She wheels it back into the garage, re-shrouds it, and lists it for sale on the NextDoor site.

Nobody there wants it either.


Comes the day that the widow donates the now not-so-shiny walker to the Salvation Army. She takes it for one last spin before they arrive to pick it up.

In the empty space where her husband once parked his car, she dances with the walker, the way she once waltzed with her husband while their toddler-daughter clapped her tiny hands and sang, Didja ever see a lassie, go this way and that?





Rita Ciresi is author of the novels Bring Back My Body to Me, Pink Slip, Blue Italian, and Remind Me Again Why I Married You; the story collections Sometimes I Dream in Italian and Mother Rocket; and two award-winning collections of flash fiction, Female Education and Second Wife.



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