June Bloom: "Clear Day Home"

This month’s Blooming Good flash fiction story honors families who’ve navigated aching decisions about aging parents.
I reinterpreted a few portions of the 1965 song On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever) for this story.

"Clear Day Home"

tree shaped like a person

“On a clear day, look and rise around at me” Nellie sang in an operatic voice that both soothed Esther’s nerves and strangled her heart. She took a Yoga calming breath and delivered the autopilot response she’d been using with her mother for the last seven months.

“Mom, I think the lyrics are ‘on a clear day, look and rise around you’,” Esther said, lightly squeezing Nellie’s arm.

“Oh, did I mess up again? I must practice more, before this audition, don’t you think?”

“Sure mom, you always told me practice makes perfect. How about softer, so we don’t distract, or should I say, don’t reveal your singing techniques. Okay, Mom?”

“Oh yes dear, that’s smart, can’t have anyone steal my style,” and Nellie returned to the wing-back chair, sizing up the others in the reception room waiting for their turn.

Esther used the term audition with Nellie during these times because that word seemed to elicit her mom’s best behavior. The competition was tough, and finding a good fit took time.

The manager, a stout woman wearing white, emerged from behind a grand oak door, looked around, and called Nellie’s name.

“It’s my turn, my turn,” Nellie said, smiling.

“So nice to meet you. Come with me,” the manager said, then beckoned Nellie forward.

“We won’t be too long,” the manager mouthed to Esther, and they were off.

Esther perused the wood paneled space filled with stock art and a ceiling high aviary filled with chirping canaries. As she was about to read the latest issue of Real Simple, Nellie’s operatic pitch pierced through the door.

On a clear day, How it will pound you, That the toll on your being, Cancels out every star,” and Esther overheard Nellie project the question, “How did I do?”

A few moments later, the manager returned with Nellie beaming by her side.

“How about I take you two on a tour?” she said, much to Esther’s relief.

They walked down a mirrored corridor with wallpapered offices. At the end, a guard admitted them through an electronically locked steel door that opened to reveal another world. Single and double studio rooms overlooked country hills and trees. In the common areas, Esther noted, residents flowed freely between a library, dining hall and sitting room with a grand piano. She asked, “Mom, what do you think?” Nellie stayed fixated on the piano.

On a clear day, rise and look around you, And you see who you are,” and several residents joined in as Nellie continued “And on a clear day, On that clear day, You can see forever, and ever, and ever, And evermore.

The manager said, “This memory care unit has two openings.”

“When can I move her in?” Esther whispered, wiping away tears.

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