The meter starts, numbers twisting and ticking away, and it doesn’t matter because numbers are a made-up thing like love.

The city outside whirs by, men hammering buildings together, baby carriages, and store signs, all of it blurry and Monet. I’ll put this painting in my head with the others.

The cab driver is 55 or 80, a hug of gray hair around his head. I don’t think much about cab drivers. I figure they like it that way.

My mother, of course, is dying.

The cab driver drives past the hospital. “Wait,” I tell him, “I said St. Elizabeth’s.”

“I know, he says, switching off the meter. “Let’s go look at the river instead.” I’ve heard of things like this. Kidnappings, hijackings.

One minute, my mother was asking if I wanted my eggs scrambled or fried.

The cab driver’s eyes in the rearview. “Hospitals can wait a few minutes,” he says. “My daughter,” he continues, “she was only five.”

When we get to the river, the slap of an autumn morning as we step out of the cab. All around us, the usual joggers, the seagulls climbing the sky.

“Those birds,” he says, “they have this sense of direction. It’s built into their wings.”

We get back into the cab. We head to the hospital. I open the window and let in a whoosh of air, a sudden swoop underneath my arms.

***

Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two full-length collections, Café Crazy and The Theory of Flesh from Kelsay Books. Her flash fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologized in the most recent New Micro (W.W. Norton) Her novella-in-flash, The Way of the Wind has just been published by Ad Hoc Fiction, and her full-length collection of flash fiction, Dressed All Wrong for This was recently published by Blue Light Press. She lives in New York City.

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