After Action

We’re halfway through dinner when the implant malfunctions.

The dining room smells like roast chicken, garlic mash, and mushroom gravy as our father, drunk off one beer thanks to the cocktail of medications he’s on, tells us about the time he stabbed his brother with a fork over a potato.

“God, I miss Frank.” He wipes his eyes, and it doesn’t matter that we’ve heard the same sentimental tale a thousand times. “Your grandmother worked so hard, and there was never enough food in the early years after the oil crash. But we stuck together.”

That’s when my sister, Marie, takes a swallow from her third glass of wine and the colour drains from her face. “Mom?”

We all look. Mom’s expression is frozen, her breathing quick, her pupils dilated.

“Look at her hands,” Marie says. “How can this be happening? It’s been years!”

“Mom,” I say tentatively, “are you okay?” But we all recognize the typing motions of her left hand, the way her right curls around a non-existent control stick. We’ve all heard the story.

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