She had lost track of him during her single parenting years, eventually finding him in a wheelchair, parked in a lonely corner of a nursing home.
She pulls a chair in front of him, sits, and smiles.
"Do you remember me?"
He attempts to remain motionless, but she sees recognition in his eyes and is relieved.
Her voice is somber and measured as she recounts memory after memory throughout the afternoon, and as his body withers into his wheelchair, she feels her spine straighten and the tips of her shoulders rise and open like the apices of a cormorant's wings, her elbows floating above the arms of her chair. "Yes," she says. "That's right."
She draws in one deep breath from her diaphragm and leans in. "It's not okay," she says.
"It will never be okay."
Her eyes sparkle as if she is staring into the ocean.
She pats the back of his hand when an aide comes to take him to dinner.
The aide witnesses the old man flinch when she touches him, recognizes the old man is weeping, but the aide isn't paid enough to care.
The old man has avoided eye contact with his daughter until she tilts her head with such slow intensity that he is drawn to look into her eyes, and there he sees the far curve of a dark wave rising, its shimmering vertical striations stretching to a volcanic crest that bristles and spits inevitably before him.
"See you tomorrow, Papa."
When he is pushed to his table and served his meal, it is the first of many he will refuse to eat, and that night, when she lies in bed unable to sleep, she is as giddy as she believes a little girl should be, knowing her secret wish of all wishes will come true.
In the morning, she drinks her coffee black and stares at the poem hanging to the right of her kitchen window. After her divorce, she had saved for months to have it properly framed, hanging it for her two sons as much as for herself. Her coffee is still steaming when she removes The Desiderata from the wall and uses a utility knife to cut it from the frame. She strikes a match, and without blinking, her eyes focus on one line until the paper falls as ash in her white porcelain sink and she feels the remaining red-orange edges extinguish around her fingertips.
"No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."
She washes the ash down the drain, cooling her fingertips, and wipes the smudges clean from the porcelain, leaving her coffee behind.
Moss Ingram's poetry and fiction have appeared in The Caribbean Writer, Crack the Spine, One Sentence Poems, 50-Word Stories and Blink-Ink. Most recently, he co-authored "Contemporary Product Development: A Focus on Innovation" (Cognella). He lives with his family in Michigan, where he is a professor at Grand Rapids Community College.