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April 2018, vol 14 no 1

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J Hahn Doleman

Arithmetic of Time

The 84-year-old woman admitted for stroke responds to each question with a string of numbers, but not in any obvious order. Where are you? I ask her for the third time. 63...51...7. She repeats the sequence slowly, unruffled by my frustration. A retired school teacher, she realizes I may need extra time to finish the exam.

Her eyes trace the IV line from her arm to the bag of saline hanging on a pole beside her bed. Why are you here? She looks back at me and smiles. 96...12...35...19. Her husband shakes his head and says it doesn’t add up. Perhaps he is also doing the math and not finding a reference. Married 62 years. She's never been this way before, he says.

last leaf
on the calendar
curling up