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Esther Threw Her Back Out

by Patrick Beath

She was done with it. Curving at age ten; aching ever since. Always demanding a great delicacy of movement–no running, no jumping, no dancing. Intimacy was a controlled handshake.

She’d had enough, so out it went, into the trash. As it turns out, the ribs had to go too (anatomy!).

Fortunately, Esther had had the foresight to have a friend over. Because, she anticipated (correctly), once her back was out, she’d blob. It was Fred who suggested that Esther sit in a wheelbarrow for the extraction. And it was Fred who wheeled her around before she got on her feet again. Esther’s first attempt to stand turned into a slow upper-body ooze–she had to build her abs. Fred did most of the work at first, holding her by the armpits and working her like a bellows.

Once she was walking again, Esther rediscovered her world. Without a spine holding her back, she got a foot of stretch over her former 5’5” existence–an NBA vista. She could owl her head one-eighty-plus to see what was happening behind her. She was a superstar at the yoga studio.

And she could embrace. She’d clung to her last hug for thirty years–her cheek against her father’s bristly neck; a smell of aftershave, coffee, worn wool; the dog running, barking below her dangling feet. When Fred took her into his arms, she melted: her body draped his wiry frame–her kidneys cinched his waist, her lungs pressed hard against the cage of his chest, and her heart found its way into Fred’s calloused hand, cupped at what was once her back.

Patrick is an attorney in Rochester, NY, and is always trying to find more time for writing and hiking.

Lead image“Skin and bones” (via Flickr user