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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 3, September 2013

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Jaclyn Jones
Chatham, Illinois, USA


Passing

My mother is the oldest of six children. A family of eight is stuffed like sardines into council housing. Her father lives chained to the wheel of the public bus he drives to support the family he is rarely home to see. Her youngest siblings escape inevitable neglect, rotating from relative to relative like the wheel of fortune seeming to govern their lives. The sister just behind her exchanges reading, writing and arithmetic for wringing out washcloths, clanging soiled bed pans, and toting an assortment of pills to their mother. Afterschool my mother joins her; constant hacking reverberates as tuberculosis tightens its grip . . .

Suddenly, the distant clacking of sturdy heels against the cobblestone courtyard outside grows louder. Through the window, my mother glimpses the approach of a familiar woman. She is in her mid-fifties and arrayed in a black, velvety wool suit and overcoat. Smooth satin gloves cover porcelain white hands, and a veiled fascinator shades ice blue eyes. “Happy birthday, Edna,” the woman says mechanically as she hands my mother the annual envelope containing 50 rand. And like a fleeting shadow, her grandmother is gone.

unearthed oak
the secret ties
between strangers

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