The Naming of Fruit

Not long before Daniel's mother dies, she sits up in bed and leans close to him. "You're very young to be in a place like this," she says. Everything about her seems different, younger than he's ever known. He flinches as she strokes his arm. Is this flirting? he wonders.

Weeks ago the nurses told him, "Don't be alarmed. Take one day at a time. Tomorrow she's just as likely to know who you are." It made Daniel think of that portrait by Magritte, the one of the man facing the mirror but seeing the back of his own head.

On his next visit he brought his mother fresh fruit: strawberries, peaches and cherries. Her favorites. She named each one. "See? Easy," he told her, wiping peach juice from her chin. "Why's it so hard to remember me?"

A memory comes up, of his mother when he was a young boy. Back then she loved to dance. Daniel would come home from school and find her in the kitchen, singing along and swaying to the music on the radio: Glenn Miller, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole. Her hands would reach out for him. "Dance with me," she'd say. Dance, with his mother? He'd laugh and pull a face then walk away.

He plumps her pillows and sits down on the edge of the bed. She holds him by the wrists, turns his hands over and examines the palms then sighs, as if she can't seem to find whatever she hoped would be there.

Later he'll call the nurses into the room. "What was she doing out of bed?" they'll ask him. "You had no business getting her out of bed." They'll see the red lipstick she's wearing. "What were you thinking of?" they'll say to him.

He'll tell them how it was: "Moonlight Serenade" playing on the bedside radio. Her starting to sway. The reckless smile she gave him. He'll swear the color rose in her cheeks as he cradled her in his arms that last time she took the floor.

About the author:

Digby Beaumont is a writer living in Brighton on the south coast of England. He worked as a nonfiction author for many years, with numerous publications. Now he writes mostly short fiction. His recent stories appear or are forthcoming in a number of literary magazines, including The Linnet's Wings, 34th Parallel, The Rose & Thorn, Pequin and Opium, as well as in the anthologies Small Voices, Big Confessions, Late-Night River Lights and City Smells.