The Vigil

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Anthony J. Otten

The Vigil



Joanie had been there for three deaths already. Mr. Drees was still alive, and the first to be awake. He was an elderly black man whose cancer had undressed him of muscle and fat. She thought, with a cringe at herself, of John Henry and the railroad from the picture-book days of elementary school.
   “I been a Methodist from the cradle,” Mr. Drees said. “Never thought I’d end up in a place named St. Whatever.”
   “It’s a good facility,” Joanie said. “My grandmother was here.”
   “She go home?”
   “No. She passed away.”
   “Then it ain’t that good,” he said. “But they take my insurance.”
   Joanie smiled.
   “Why you do this?” he asked.
   “Do what?”
   “Sit with folks here.”
   Joanie wondered this herself. Every motive she could name felt contrived. “It’s my . . .
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Able Muse Write Prize for Fiction, 2018 ▪ Winner

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