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  • She put down the telephone, feeling like fuming again after so many years free from the burden of Harry, her second husband. She didn't say "fuck you." That was an improvement. He was down on his luck - had never had any luck - and it would be churlish of her to be trantrumy about his fulminations. Particularly because he was in the rehab center, really a nursing home, in what his doctor repeatedly told him was his last stop. Harry had been fighting with the nurses, of course, because they didn't do exactly what he wanted them to do at exactly the right moment in exactly the right manner. She understood clinical narcissism and knew it was painful, not self-indulgent. Suspected it arose from the year he spent in an orphanage being "prop" fed with all the other unfortunate bastard infants of WWII. It was 1945, and the orphanage was packed tight with mewling babies. The nurses fed them with bottles propped on a metal apparatus they attached to the back of their tiny charges' necks. Their husbands and boyfriends, fathers and sons, brothers and lovers, were dying or had died in the Battle of Gembloux, the Siege of Calais, Operation Donnerkeil, the St. Nazaire Raid. They'd been to Cherbourg and Bloody Gulch, Verrières Ridge and Brest. They'd taken Hill 262 or it had taken them. If the little orphans were fed and their diapers changed, that was enough. They didn't have to feign love for the discarded issue of loose women who might have lured their own sweet, departed men into their beds before they headed out to meet the Hun. Joan took a few deep breaths, reminding herself that Harry was one of fortune's fools. And now, as he was dying, he was once again in a home with nurses who didn't care. "I can't see," he'd shouted at her through his old Motorola flip phone. "The nurses come in and then vanish like smoke." Later, when the home told her that Harry had been "lost" somewhere between Fairfax Rehabilitation and Olympic Hospital where he died, she said to the nurse's assistant with the bad luck to be assigned the call, "the final indignity in a lifetime of complaint." Then she softly hung up the receiver.

    379 words, 35 minutes.
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