I can distinguish each one by their walker sounds. My mother’s walker makes a steady clacking, a locomotive’s leisurely journey. And there I wait, say, in the kitchen, as if on a platform anticipating her arrival. I coax and cheer her on, hugging her when she finally reaches me. My father’s walker is like a racing bullet train, barreling hurly-burly across the open prairie. I sense the gust of my father’s motion even before I glimpse him on the other side of the couch. I’m the long grasses lining the tracks. I wave and whirl within the whoosh.
But now. New walker sounds emerge from their bedroom. I’m unable, for the life of me, to tell who is traveling here or back again, or to some other place entirely. Peering through the cracked open door, I see their stooped frailties yet strong grips on the bulbous handles. Their facing metal frames, traveling the same track. Neither moves out of the way. In fact, as my mom rolls toward my dad, he rolls backwards. Then he rolls forward, with her now moving backwards. This goes on and on. Flawlessly in sync. Soon I realize they are back at the Riverside Ballroom up on South Mountain, some sixty odd years ago. They’re pressed tightly against each other, out in the middle of the crush of bodies on the dance floor. Maybe they’re swaying to Hank Williams or Webb Pierce. Or, perhaps, they spin to some new honky-tonk band playing their hearts out, just trying to make it in this tough, godforsaken world.
Dan Crawley is the author of the novella Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019) and the short story collection The Wind, It Swirls (Cowboy Jamboree Press, 2021). His writing appears or is forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including JMWW, Lost Balloon, Tiny Molecules, and Atticus Review. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize. Along with teaching creative writing workshops and literature courses, he is a fiction reader for Little Patuxent Review.