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"Flying Solo" by Mary Anne Mc Enery

Connor sat on the park bench beside Ann’s wheelchair, watching the ducks on the lake. They looked peaceful; their lives simple. “If they feel unhappy, they can fly away to somewhere else,” Ann said.

Connor stood up and stretched. He imagined himself as an eagle with a six-foot wingspan. “Fancy a slice of chocolate gateau with your coffee, my chickadee?” he asked in his Groucho Marx voice.

Ann kept staring over the lake’s waters as if she hadn’t heard. Connor waited. He knew what she was thinking.

Finally, she spoke up. “I know you insisted on return tickets, but I’m staying.”

Connor blew his nose into his large, white handkerchief. “The appointment isn’t till two, let’s wait till then.”

Ann said nothing.

“Shut your eyes,” Connor ordered, “I have a surprise for you.” Then he leaned over the wheelchair carrier and removed Ann’s handbag. He opened it and took out her eyebrow pencil and make-up mirror.

When he had finished, he called out, “You can open now.” He did an exaggerated Charlie Chaplin walk, working his charcoal eyebrows up and down, and twirling an imagery cane. Ann laughed as he knew she would. Connor went down on his haunches and kissed her lips, held her.

“I’m ready for that cappuccino now,” Ann whispered into his ear, a sad smile in her voice.


Connor sat in an aisle seat on the midnight flight from Zurich to Dublin. He cupped Ann’s ashes — hidden under a blanket —on his lap. He could feel her there, lending him her strength. She was not gone. She would never be gone.

As the flight attendant talked over the intercom and pointed out emergency exits, Connor bowed his head and tried to return to that state of calmness he’d experienced by the lake. He thought of how he had fed Ann tiny morsels of Black Forest Gateau, of how they had sat by the lake and dozed in the mid-morning sunlight. But it was no use. Exhaustion took over his body and he slept without resting, turbulence threatening to dislodge Ann from his tired fingers.


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