At the Assisted Living Facility – Contest Finalist

by Michael Harty

They straggle across two rows
of handicapped spaces, tugging their young
toward  the wide pneumatic doors,
adjusting their faces.  Smile, Trevor,
Grandpa wants to see you smile.

They steel themselves to invade
the land of the frail, of Jell-o
dinners and the same words
over and over in babytalk;
of rice-paper skin, veins showing through
like parsley stems; of too-warm
disinfected air no one breathes
too deeply for fear
of smelling something dead.

They pause at the door for a motorized chair
to exit; they go in holding their breath.
The man in the chair does not look
left or right, nor does he tell them
the chair’s name is Trigger.