By David Henson
Dorothy drew the clock with each number in the right place. “Excellent, Mrs. Johnson,” Dr. Magnus said. I struggled to stay down as my hopes rose.
Then my wife spoke again. “Scent of pines breezing upstream.”
“Dorothy, what’s going on?”
She kissed my wrist. “Rough sea festooned with moonlight.”
“Mrs. Johnson,” Dr. Magnus said. “Could you go into the waiting room while I talk to your husband?”
Before Dorothy could speak, I glided with her to the door.
“Is she behaving normally except for talking gibberish?” Dr. Magnus said when we were alone. “Moodiness? Hygiene?”
“Not gibberish, Doctor. Always nature verses. There is something else. She’s not flying very well.”
“I see,” Dr. Magnus said. He prescribed a full body MRI and sent us to the seventh floor. Dorothy could only manage one level at a time without stopping for me to massage her wings.
My wife was an English major specializing in creative writing when we met years ago. One day I was at the bank of mail slots in the dorm when I heard a shriek. It turned out to be Dorothy opening an SASE and learning a poem had been accepted. I went over and asked if everything was OK. She gave me a hug and flapped so excitedly she pulled me up to the ceiling with her. I knew then she was the girl for me.
Soon after graduation, we were married. I got a job as an accountant at a big company in town. Dorothy was turned down for a position in the English Department at school. The department head thought her background was too light in the classics.
Dorothy was so down she started night-floating aimlessly by herself. One evening she came home, and her wings were bejeweled with fireflies. I helped her carefully untangle the insects, and we turned them loose in the backyard. “A new beginning,” Dorothy said. At the time, I thought that was a good thing.
A few days later, I learned my company’s employee newspaper was looking for a staff writer. Dorothy applied and got the job.
During her first five years at the company, Dorothy received three promotions and moved into the product strategy area. She was so busy she quit writing poetry, and we hardly had time to fly together. We didn’t even go on little drifts around the neighborhood, let alone the cross-country soar we’d always talked about. Then top management made Dorothy the company’s youngest VP ever.
It was during a presentation to the board that Dorothy first displayed her strange condition. I was on Dorothy’s project team and was sitting in the back row with the other grunts. I admired her as she swooped around the auditorium, banking this way and that for emphasis as she laid out the new global product strategy. But as the meeting went on, she began fluttering and answering questions hesitantly. Then the chairman cut Dorothy off and said her plan needed more work. Dorothy landed a bit clumsily and said “encouragement of frogs for the thirsty moose.”
The chairman adjourned the meeting and limped out of the room. I noticed a small hump under his jacket where his wings had once been attached and recalled rumors about how he’d been a promising ballet dancer in his youth.
Dorothy rested in the hospital bed. The MRI Dr. Magnus had prescribed found nothing, but Dorothy’s condition had continued to worsen. The nurse hovered as he checked her vitals then shook his head. My wife, her wings so shriveled I could see the veins and sinews in them, smiled and said weakly “Chorus of moss-covered rocks in the froth.”
I took her hand. “Keep fighting, Dorothy.”
After the hospital determined there was nothing more they could do, they sent us home with a Hospice Wings attendant who told me Dorothy most likely would reach the crisis point that night.
My wife’s now-grayish wings twitched feebly. When I lay beside her and turned off the light. She whispered “Living speck in throes of a webbed-foot typhoon.” She was still mumbling poetry feverishly as I fell asleep.
When I awoke in the morning, Dorothy was sitting up. I was relieved she seemed stronger. But as I had feared, her wings were gone, shadowy ashes on the bed.
“Guess I might as well go back to work,” she sighed.
I scooped the ashes with my hands, took them to window and let the wind carry them away.
David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has been nominated for a Best of the Net and has appeared in numerous print and online journals including Bull and Cross, Gravel, Fiction on the Web, Lost Balloon, and Literally Stories. His website is http://writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8.