'Twelve Reflections on Brochures and Sword Swallowing' by Teresa Milbrodt


From Guernica:

Promotional brochure photograph of furnished single-occupancy apartment at Bright Pines Assisted Living and Care Facility. Forest green carpet, mauve armchair and matching couch, wooden kitchen table and chairs. All independent living apartments come furnished.

It was understood that everyone would eventually migrate to one of the two nursing home wings, and the process was easier if they didn’t need to shuffle couches and chairs and beds.


When he had the stroke, Arthur was looking at thirty-year-old pictures of his late wife in the nude. His apartment was exactly like the one in the brochure photograph, except for the naked pictures of his wife on the floor. At least that’s what Harold said. He lived in the apartment next to Arthur, was the second person in Arthur’s room after Arthur pressed the Medic Alert button. Harold held Arthur’s hand while the attendant nurse called for an ambulance. Harold told me he didn’t look at the pictures until after the paramedics had left with Arthur.

“Naked as the day she was born,” said Harold. “I’d never seen the photos before, but Arthur mentioned them once or twice. You should have seen his wife when she was still with us. A real looker. She passed on about eight years ago.”

I never wanted to see pictures of Arthur’s wife, clothed or otherwise. I’d had a crush on Arthur for three years and envied her as it was, especially since she’d known him when he was young, and I’d known him when he was seventy-seven.

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