Eye Witness

"Come here quickly," I call, waving a tremulous, liver-spotted hand. My voice is feeble and cracked. When did I grow old? It doesn't seem so long ago that I was young and strong, playing games with...with...what was her name?

I rub my wrinkled, papery forehead. Not only does the name elude me, I can't even recall WHO she was and the fact nags me incessantly. I feel I should at least remember that much. I shake my head. Doesn't matter, it's not important.

I clutch the sleeve of the nurse's uniform and prod at the window pane. "Look," I say. "Do you see her?" She pats my shoulder.

"Of course I do, dear." But she is only humoring me. She sees nothing but a vacant lawn with neatly-trimmed hedges and immaculate flower beds.

She's a pretty thing about five years old...the little girl in the blue dress and frilly, white apron. "She's by the chestnut tree over there...see her?" The nurse indulges me once more.

"Very cute...blonde curls and button nose!." She only knows those things because I've already told her countless times.

"Closer, push me closer!" I tell the nurse and she does because they like to keep me calm. I'm less trouble when I'm calm. I tilt my head. If I concentrate, I can almost hear her laughing, the small, fair-haired angel with the green eyes. Green eyes...that bothers me. How do I know they are green? From here, I'm too far away to tell what color they might be. Nevermind. Don't dig too deeply for answers. I just know, that's all.

"Now tell me," I challenge the nurse with a toothless grin, "if that isn't the most adorable Collie pup you've ever seen in your entire life!" She nods.

"Indeed it is. Looks just like a miniature Lassie!" A sneer creeps across my face. She falls for it every time. Soon, I will run out of breeds. They'd agree the moon was made of Swiss cheese if they thought it would pacify me.

"Strange," I say, "since it's not a Collie at all, but a Beagle!" The nurse looks out the window again.

"How silly of me," she chuckles. "I can see now that it's the image of Snoopy." The woman is an imbecile. Snoopy doesn't look anything like a Beagle, even though he's supposed to be one! And neither does the little girl's cuddly companion, considering it's a Spaniel!

What a happy pair they are, the small girl and her excitable puppy. She sits on the grass and he scrambles into her lap, tail wagging nineteen-to-the-dozen. He places his clumsy, oversized paws on her shoulders, but her immature frame is not strong enough to support his weight and she falls backward. A silk ribbon, the color of a blue jay's tail feather, comes loose from her tumble of curls and spirals to rest at the foot of the tree. A hand snakes from around the trunk and the sapphire sliver disappears in a slow-moving trail.

"You saw that?" I ask. This is the crucial moment. If action is taken immediately, all may not be lost.

"Don't work yourself into another state," the nurse cautions. I dig my ragged fingernails into her wrist.

"Do something while there's still time!" She winces and attempts to break my grip, surprised at the resistance.

My gaze returns to the scene beyond the window and I release her.

"Bah," I cackle scornfully. "Too late...again!" The dog is already dead, sprawled awkwardly on the grass and the child is trying to run. Her sturdy legs pump furiously but cover little ground. She looks fearfully behind, her mouth wide in a soundless scream.

He pauses, the giant of a man who is pursuing her. His long stride eats up more distance than the girl could ever hope to achieve between them. His long, dusty-black overcoat flutters like the menacing wings of a vulture. He pauses to stare for one mocking moment at the window, scratching his hooked nose, before pouncing.

I reach out to snatch a handful of the nurse's hair and drag her face to the window. "Do you see him?" I demand to know. "Surely you see him." She pries apart my fingers. Now, I've made her angry and she will force me back into bed. All to no avail...all for nothing.

I hold tight to the sill as she tugs the wheelchair backward. The little girl is propped, limp as a rag doll, against the thick trunk of the chestnut, her neck twisted at an unnatural angle. Her hands cradle the lifeless pup, now arranged carefully in her lap, curled up pathetically tiny as if he were merely napping comfortably after a long afternoon of retrieving sticks and chasing a rubber ball. The predator has vanished.

They firmly tuck the sheets underneath the mattress and prepare the solution that will bring oblivion. "Maybe next time?" I urge. "Maybe next time it will not be too late?" They nod and gently slide the needle into a fragile vein.


But it will probably be a long time before they allow me near the window again. Sometimes it is months after such an episode.

I feel a tear settle into the crinkled fold of ancient skin on my cheek. "I was a witness," I mumble, suddenly weary and listless. "I witness...eye witness..."

My voice is feeble and cracked. When did I grow so terribly old? It doesn't seem too long ago that I was young and strong, playing games with...with...what WAS her name?

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