by Beth Kander
All that was left of Aggie by then was a whole lot of anger and a tendency to flick her tongue against the back of her teeth. The wet clicking was the grating soundtrack to our brief time together; she would glare and click as I cleaned her, fed her, made sure she took her medications and hadn't lost too much weight. I didn't pay too much attention to her frustration or her wordless protestations. Wasn't my job. I had my own problems, and three more patients to see after her before I could break for lunch, and if Bert hadn't quit out of the blue she wouldn't have even been included in my rounds. So yes, I might have been rushing through the tasks with her, I very nearly missed it when her clicking intensified and her eyes kept darting to the left. I finally followed her gaze, and saw a framed black-and-white photograph perched on the bedside table. Caught in the frame was someone in overalls, lanky and androgynous, a defiant jut to their chin. They leaned against a wooden fence on sharp elbows, looking away from the camera, off toward the peaks in the distance, a tilted cowboy hat keeping hidden the details of their face. Aggie's tongue hit her teeth again, pleading, and for the first time I really looked at her. Then at the photo. And something clicked, louder than teeth. I saw her. Saw them. A heavy sigh of relief filled the sterile room, moved through it, escaped, sent a breeze all the way to Colorado's rocky mountains.