The Toe-Eater

The Toe-Eater
by John A. DeMember

Five and innocent, Johnny’s wiry frame hunkered down, just below the bed rails. His grandmother’s labored breathing pulsed like black-green waves, agitated to a froth and dying against the shore.

The light of the day, in its last gasps, slithered over the horizon. Like a burial shroud, a mute, gray darkness descended on the snow-covered landscape just beyond the foggy bay windows of the playroom. The room, once full of joy and sunlight—yellows and light browns—was now dark, shadowy, and filled with the smell of decay. The hushed conversations in the adjoining kitchen formed an interminable white noise.

A massive bed now dominated the room, and little Johnny played in the tent created by the blankets draped over his elderly grandmother. Entirely ignorant of the vicious cancer eating her alive, he felt certain she was asleep. She always slept.

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