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Pamela Tyree Griffin

Moses just HAS to answer the door himself, oxygen tank and all. His wife is in a back bedroom likely shaking her head. She never comes to the door and so I have learned to wait for as long as it takes.

I'm used to waiting. Moses is my friend though we've met solely due to his infirmity. I'm a volunteer at the "Peaceful Bridge" Hospice.

After about ten minutes, the door opens. There he stands smiling in his toothless, glad to see me fashion. Our visit may last ten minutes or it may last all afternoon. Moses, a man dying, decides.

Today is a good day because he has taken out his weathered deck of cards saying. "Girl you ready to get beat?"
"Yeah Right," is my reply.
" By my calculations, "he wheezes," you owe me close to $222,000.Lucky for you I'll be long gone before you can pay!"

We laugh. He's not uneasy about his cancer and never has been. When I first met him, he told me that I shouldn't worry about him-that everybody dies just not everybody knows when. In fact, he's lasted longer than predicted. One more month he'll have to be removed from Hospice. If you haven't passed away in six months- you gotta' go.

Moses sits on his recliner with a colorful assortment of pillows supporting his back. He's got to rest a minute.
He's a big man although not as big as he used to be, judging by the pictures around the room. I don't know if he has some dentures lying around somewhere which don't fit his shrinking gums. In his pictures he's a big, teddy bear of a man with arms like logs and a wide white grin.

Moses has a little multi purpose folding tray in front of him. The tray does a bunch things: holds his food and medicines, his tv guide and sometimes his comb and brush. Once I came here and he had one swollen, dry foot up on the tray. Now though, everything is cleared except the single picture of him, his wife Pearl and their baby.

It's a studio portrait. It's never far from sight. Moses looks to be in his twenties wearing a seersucker suit. Pearl, who seems to be using all of her strength to hold the baby, is a handsome woman. Her straw hat partially hides her face but her eyes are shining.

That's the closest I've come to seeing Pearl. When I visit she is either out or in one the back bedrooms. She has never once opened the door. If I want anything, I get it myself. Not that I mind- it's just that I feel like an intruder, a trespasser in their domain.

"She thinks you is death itself girl," Moses said to me once. " Like seein' you is bad luck or somethin'"

I have never seen their son either.

Rested, Moses shuffles his cards so we can play 21. I think the deck is fixed because I've never once won and he always insists on dealing.

We play for an hour or two. Throughout Moses likes to watch videos, usually westerns starring Jack Palance or John Wayne. He's already won several hands and is finally tired of playing with a fool girl like me. Usually he falls asleep right about now and I leave.

Today though, he's wide awake and is standing. "You wait here while I make a deposit, girl." The first time he said this to me I thought he was going to the bank. In reality he was going to the bathroom but just didn't want to say it.

The toilet flushes, the door opens and then there is that horrible crash.

I'm not supposed to lift Moses, instead I put a pillow under his head and call 911. He's breathing okay and talking fine-making perfect sense. In his ramblings he has told me about Little Moe, who I thought was a grown man somewhere.

As it turns out, his baby son died the same day the portrait was made. As they left the studio, he broke free of his mother's hand and ran ahead of his parents on his fast three year old legs towards God knows what. He tumbled off the sidewalk and landed under the wheels of an old, green Chevrolet which mashed his head. Pearl has not spoken one word since that day. Not one.

My friend Moses died during the night in the hospital.

Some weeks later I received a box in the mail. The return address label said Pearl and Moses Dawn. I didn't open it right away, preferring to look at the name Moses Dawn for a while.

When I finally did open the package, I found wrapped in tissue paper, Mosses' deck of cards and his favorite picture of his little family. No note. Nothing. Pearl had decided to speak to me after all. Moses would have liked that.

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