Tomorrow by Scott Ragland
Morton knows his mother will forget what he tells her. “It rained last night,” he’ll say. Then they’ll watch television for a while, the news or a British comedy. His mother will look out the window. “Did it rain last night?” she’ll ask. “Yes,” he’ll say. “Good,” she’ll say, “we need the rain.”
After putting his mother to bed, Morton will change the channel on the television to something he wants to watch. A baseball game. A documentary about army medics in combat zones. He’ll marvel at what other people can do. He’ll imagine hitting a fastball into the upper deck, suturing chest wounds with shrapnel flying overhead. He’ll fall asleep on the couch.
In the morning, Morton will fix his mother breakfast, two pieces of toast with apricot jam and the crust trimmed off, the way she likes it. “Thank you,” she’ll say. At lunch, she’ll say she’s hungry, that she hasn’t eaten all day.
“You had toast for breakfast,” Morton will say, “like always.”
“I like toast,” she’ll say.
“I know you do.”
“With apricot jam.”
“I know you do.”
They’ll play double solitaire in the afternoon. Morton’s mother will complain about the heat and Morton will lower the blinds over the west-facing windows.
“That’s better,” his mother will say.
Between games, she’ll ask about Morton’s job. He’d been a custodian at the hospital, changing sheets, taking used syringes and surgical gloves to the incinerator. He’d lost the job months ago. He’ll tell her again.
“I don’t have a job.”
The next day, when she asks about his job, he tells her he’s a doctor.
“I save people from terrible diseases,” he says.
“That’s wonderful,” his mother says. She smiles. “I’m so proud of you.”
Maybe she’ll remember until tomorrow. Morton imagines her smiling until then, when he’ll tell her again.
Scott Ragland has an MFA in Creative Writing (fiction) from UNC Greensboro. Before taking a writing hiatus, he had several stories published, most notably in Writers’ Forum, Beloit Fiction Journal, and The Quarterly. More recently, his work has appeared in Ambit, The Common (online), Fiction International, Cherry Tree, and CutBank (online), among others.
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