Fiction from NER 34.2.
Shortly after they moved from their own house in Darien, Connecticut, into a retirement home near Fort Myers, Florida, Lucinda announced that she didn’t want to be married anymore to Fred, her husband of fifty-nine years. When she told her children this they were first horrified and then dismissive. She could not mean it, they said to her and to each other. She could not possibly be serious. They interpreted it as a sign that she was becoming senile, that her mind and judgment, which had until then remained very sharp, were becoming impaired. They took her to get tested for other signs of reduced cognitive function, but the doctors they spoke with found Lucinda to be lucid and competent, her memory of recent and distant events remarkably intact for someone of her age, which was eighty-three years old.
“But what about this idea that she’s going to leave my father?” her son, Harry, asked the gerontologist who administered the battery of tests. “If that doesn’t count as crazy, I don’t know what does.”
The doctor looked at him and shrugged.
“I can’t comment on whether your mother is making a sensible choice in this matter,” he said. “But she is able to talk about her decision with perfect clarity. Being sane is in no way related to being wise.”
Emily Mitchell’s first novel The Last Summer of the World, (W. W. Norton), was a finalist for the 2008 Young Lions Award. Her short fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, Alaska Quarterly Review, TriQuarterly, and previously in NER. She teaches fiction at the University of Maryland.