“The family of a man whose body was discovered in April
in a closet at a Thunderbolt nursing home has retained an attorney
in the matter.”

Savannah Morning News, Monday, June 30, 2008.

From the beginning, living in the Thunderbolt,
they have asked for trouble. So how surprising is it
that alzheimered Walter, with mute and smiling sweetness,
has become the permanent king of tiny places.
It should be noted that without explanation, at age 89—
newly child-like, he saw no need to explain a craving
for closeted peace. The fact that he was missing

for two weeks makes us pause, though we are frustrated
because, as usual, the authorities will not comment.
Surely this is mere habit—keeping death at formal, papered distance.
For the record—medical records have been turned over to the family
and lawyers already write blame for Walter’s diminished status.
Everywhere these days in the Thunderbolt, collectors of minutia
and ancient facts hover like a cloud of mosquitoes.

The Thunderbolt management—always focused
on the bottom line—has already booked Walter’s room
to a widow from Waycross barely used to her walker—
just learning dementia. Though most residents
in the newly scrubbed, newly painted Thunderbolt
don’t read the papers, a significant number at meal time
remember Walter’s smile and sense of play.

But most think more about bingo than about preparing
for the end, for too often they have seen their kind
taken away. Like third graders behind the teacher’s back,
they have their own agenda. Given the opportunity,
more than a few would slip away and nap in the closet.

Mark Vogel has published short stories in Cities and Roads, Knight Literary Journal, Whimperbang, SN Review, and Our Stories. His poetry has appeared in Poetry Midwest, English Journal, Cape Rock, Dark Sky, Cold Mountain Review and Broken Bridge Review, among others. He is currently a professor of English at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.