Fluffy Pink Socks
Peggy had a cough. A thick suffocating rattle that shook her bird-like frame, phlegm rising to form a glob in her mouth that she then promptly swallowed. I watched as it moved like a rubber ball back down her scrawny neck before she could catch her breath, like a snake might swallow an egg.
Her hair had been set into soft, bruised curls. A contrast to the white wires that sprouted from her chin. She wore a nightgown that was covered with small jaundiced flowers. Her vein-blue cardigan was spattered with an archipelago of gravy islands. She had a pair of fluffy pink socks on her feet.
Peggy and I talked, as much as you can do with someone who doesn’t know who they are anymore. I examined her pigeon chest and dowager’s hump with my stethoscope, listening to the suck of air across the pools of secretions trapped in her honeycomb lungs. I gave the nurse a prescription with instructions and when I left Peggy raised a hand in my direction but she had already forgotten who I was.
Days later when they opened the compartment door I recognised Peggy immediately. Not by the white hairs on her now slack chin or the milky pancakes of her once blue eyes but by the fluffy pink socks that she still had on, keeping her feet warm in the undertaker’s fridge.
Copyright Eliot North (2016)
Posting older anatomy writing that is just sitting on my computer gathering dust. This short story was inspired by a combination of my own Grandmother Margaret (who went by the name of Peggy) and a number of encounters I had as a GP, including a pair of memorable pink socks.