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Sundowning
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Sundowning

by Trevor Ketner

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About Trevor Ketner

Trevor is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Minnesota. He has work published or forthcoming online or in print in The Sycamore Review, Pif Magazine, Fjords Review (web), The Conium Review, Fourteen Magazine, The Round, The Sheepshead Review, and elsewhere. His work is also slated to be included in the anthology Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartlan (Ice Cub Press, 2014). He was recently named a finalist for the 2013 Wabash Prize for Poetry.

In the stained light of a small hospital office, Dr. Kensey said he had the cure captured in a syringe. Mom was scared. Mom was ready for it to end one way or the other. Mom signed the consent forms, the DNR. The night before she thought she was back in grad school and drank half the gin Jen and I kept in the freezer. I woke up when she fell and the bottle filled the house with shattering. She woke lucid and hungover. Small blessings. On the television there were patients. Dr. Kensey played us clips. Before: Why are we here? Where is Laura? You are not my Laura. Where— Audio from when they performed the procedure, the tenuous aria of the pneumatic drill acting as a prelude to treatment: (Patient H) A small, brown dog in the street. It was dead. It was run-over. (Patient K) Water. I know there was water. The trick, said Dr. Kensey, is in the remembering. We inject the serum at the moment they recollect that earliest memory. The trick is in the remembering. There were no audiovisuals for postop. He showed us diagrams of metal halos and metered arcs like on those building-sized telescopes hidden away from the light pollution of skylines. I guess they examine the same sorts of things, darkness, all those sparks. The apparatus makes sure we enter the brain at the right angle and go to the right depth. A chimp could do it. An ape with a scalpel in his hand showed up in my dream the next night. Mom was lucid. The day of they shaved Mom’s head. Somehow it looked more expansive. They marked out the spot where they would break the silence of her skull with a drill bit. They wheeled her off and we sat in the waiting room with the expired TIME magazines someone forgot to rotate out. The procedure went well. said Dr. Kensey. Your mother did very well. Would you like to see her? Her head was a Q-tip resting against the pillow. She may still be groggy. I’ll give you some time. She was muttering, There was a little boy named Rick who wanted to play hospital. Mother told me never to play hospital. I didn’t play. I didn’t play hospital. Most days now Mom is lucid, remembers me, remembers Jen, remembers Jen is my pregnant wife. Most days now she is sad because Dad is always dead. Dad never gets to be at work anymore. Dad never gets to be late in calling her up to go out to the movies anymore. Dad never gets to rise like Lazarus anymore. Most days Mom is glad we had her have the procedure. But sometimes when we are out at the grocery store and the fluorescent lights’ hum is bearing down on her in front of the bell peppers she’ll mutter to herself I didn’t play. I didn’t play hospital. Sometimes she’ll look up and ask if the surgery went well. I am never quite sure how to answer so we walk back to the car her hand in mine and I tell her today was better then yesterday and tomorrow will only improve on that. I can say all of this because the moon sometimes helps her forget her days.