Essay: Excerpt from TINY GRADATIONS OF LOSS by Nicholas Grider

Tumors that couldn’t have grown fast enough to suffocate her. She died from cancer, she died from causes unknown. With him but already gone, crimson scarlet alone. Still warm.


Day -2 he thinks it must just be all the morphine. He wants to think so. He says it to himself. He says it to his sister, he wants wishes to be wings to lift his mother tomorrow back to her second wind back to planning a future back to her recovered life.


Day -2 morphine for air hunger, the home hospice nurse says never any breath adequate too phlegmatic too shallow too superficial, clinical. Day -2 she sleeps sitting in her recliner of twenty-four years, Day -2 she slips from sleeping into something else. Day -1 six in the morning he meets another nurse and signs her into hospice, they carry her away, he meets her there, he wants to know if she were responsive during the ride but doesn’t ask.


Day -1 four thirty in the morning when he shakes her she opens her eyes for a moment and looks and falls back asleep unresponsive maybe it’s morphine maybe it’s something else maybe he should call the nurse maybe she takes an hour to arrive the silver of sickness shading into blue as dawn slides in against the windows.


Day 32 he wishes it were fiction every day he wishes it were fiction, could be rewritten. Pages one through one hundred are friction, shoved against, shouldered aside, are blank.


He thinks colors, wishes for dreams, says crimson, vermilion, silver, the hospice room crimson and vermilion but really oak and hunter-green solemn without seeming clinical.  He wants to send a thank-you card for solemn without seeming clinical.


Year -25 his father another hospice “how are things going in Boy Scouts” he’s never been in Boy Scouts his dead half-brother was. Year -25 the other hospice, clinical instead of solemn, similar disease, same general location, morphine meaning past and present shape-shifting, meaning he’s erased, and so was she she tells him later. Year -25 he dies while he and his mother are at a local weekend-long fair, together. The answering machine at home records countless vague urgent calls.


His mother on morphine fed with a dropper as to a baby bird is pure rag doll and gasp-gurgle-wheeze. His mother on opiates is beautiful, emotional, asleep. Day -170 Day -169 he watches her sleep in the hospital she says she’s glad she has someone to wake up to.

Nicholas Grider is the author of the story collection Misadventure (A Strange Object, 2014), the experimental book Thirty Pie Charts (Gauss PDF, 2014), and a forthcoming chapbook from Imipolex Press under an assumed name. His work has appeared in CaketrainConjunctionsDIAGRAM, Guernica, and elsewhere, and they’re a contributing writer to Entropy and The Fanzine.

Photo credit: Swift66,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.