Heresies of Nature
by Margaret B. Young


Tired. Sad. Lonely. Distant. Scared.

Cody felt Ben recede. He was falling out of orbit, losing warmth, somersaulting into a yawning canyon alone and getting smaller and colder, swimming through clouds with terrified hands. During dinner he didn’t even look at her.


Elaine Boswell went with the Morgan girls and Ben to South Beach Haven just after dinner to fill out papers. The residents thought Elaine was joining them. A Navajo woman with a hip-­length white braid said from her wheelchair, “You’ll like it here, lady. This is a pretty nice place.” Before Elaine could tell her she wouldn’t be staying, another old woman approached, taking [p.117] rapid baby steps. She had kind, crazy eyes, and added, “If you don’t mind the screaming all night, that is. You incontinent?”

Elaine stared.

“They change sheets with a smile,” the woman said.

“Nice place,” the Navajo repeated. “You like it here, lady.”

Elaine made her way to the nurse’s station, signed her name next to Ben’s on two forms and said to the head nurse, “Merry is my daughter. This is her husband, though they’ll be getting divorced before the end of the month, so Medicaid can take over. These are their daughters, Janice and Elizabeth.”

The girls put a forest green quilt on their mother’s new bed and two cross-stitched slogans on the wall: “Life Is What You Make It,” “I Will Bring the Light of the Gospel Into My Home.”

Elaine kept looking around the room, sniffing the corners, touching the pink drapes, fluffing the pillows.

South Beach Haven sent the United Way van to pick Merry up at 8:30. Ben carried her into the van, and laid her on the bed. Janny brought the wheelchair, folded up. Elizabeth carried the two suitcases containing Merry’s clothes. Penny, though she had promised to be there, never showed up. Cody watched from the porch.

Ben sat beside his wife, rode with her to her new place. Janny and Elizabeth took the Toyota, driving behind the van. They stayed with Merry until nearly midnight, two hours after Ben had left. When the nurses suggested they leave “so the poor lady can sleep,” Janny knelt by the LaZboy where Merry was ­sitting and hugged her around the waist. “You’re my mom,” she said as Elizabeth brushed Merry’s hair. “You’re my mom.”


Ben looked drunk when he came inside, though Cody knew he was only unstable, still free-styling through clouds. “Can I do anything for you?” she asked.

[p.118] He shook his head.

“Help you sleep?”


“Sing you good dreams?”


She held up both hands, made a circle in the air, said, “Let the feelings out.”

He gave her a long, distant look. “You promised me space if I need it. I need it now,” and turned towards the Ocean Room.

She did not go to him that night, not even when she heard his sobs washing over the full-volume waves.

This was the hard part of healing.


Pinesol. Linseed oil. Ajax cleanser. Windex.

No scent of Merry. No urine. No sweat. No lavender cologne.

Cody was still cleaning at midnight when Janny and Elizabeth returned.

“You’re up late,” said Jan.

“Hello,” said Cody.

“I guess you’ll be moving, too.”

Cody shrugged and smiled.

In the Ocean Room, the aquarium bubbled and hissed like a ceaseless sigh.