TO CUT A WIDE SWATH by Therese White

I smell ammonia. Old people. We visit Great Aunt Alma for no reason. It’s Sunday, reason enough. Her room: a single cell, a single window. The bed backs into a corner. Her white bedspread, a canvas. Little blocks, cut from her underwear, lay stacked: pastel patches. Her arthritic finger points to them. Her mouth opens; no words exit. Tan knee-highs choke her calves. Her strap slips off her shoulder. Her feet are firmly planted in sturdy, black loafers.

My grandparents are not surprised; they are blasé.

I stand mute, wondering what language Alma is forgetting: French or English. My plain face stares kindly, as I remember a recent verb conjugation in Madame Lessard’s class: couper…tu coupes…she cuts.

My grandmother wrests away Alma’s scissors. Arms outstretched, Alma breathes in quickly, cups my 14-year-old face, whispering, “Magnifique,” and I blink.


Therese White is a Connecticut writer, teacher, and MFA candidate from Lindenwood University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Caveat Lector and Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine. She writes while sitting on a wee stool in front of the wood stove.

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