Flash Fiction

The Caregiver

“Oh it’s a real one!” She exclaims, her wide eyes dancing about the nail salon, looking at but not really seeing the other customers. I grab her wrists as they flutter about, like caged birds, and the two Asian women remove her shoes and dip her gnarled feet into the little tub of warm water. Her toes are curled like knobs of ginger.

The warmth calms her. Lou’s eyes begin to slide shut, and she leans her head towards me. “This place is much nicer than that other one,” she whispers loudly, and I know what she’s talking about. I nod, hoping she’ll leave it at that. “Remember, Jessie? Remember that fat woman sitting beside me?”

“Yeah, Lou. How’s the water now? Does it feel good?”

“Oh Jessie she was so fat. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Like a sausage fit to burst!”

She does make me laugh sometimes. “Relax Lou,” I say.

Suddenly she sits up straight. “But who’s in there?” She cocks her head, staring at the wall, and points a crooked finger. “Who’s in the living room there?” I hold her hand and ignore this. I know the minute I assure her there’s no one in the living room, she’ll be on to something else – demanding I turn off the tea kettle or searching for her childhood dog Cocoa. Sometimes it’s easier to just ignore her mind’s wanderings and wait until she comes back. She always does, eventually.


People think I’m a saint. “She’s not even your mother,” they say. It’s nice to be thought of that way, though the truth is, I don’t even know my own mother. Never have. Lou is the closest thing I have. And she’d do the same for me. Done more, in fact.


Tonight when I tuck her into bed she’s confused again. “Why are you doing this to me?” She swats at me and I catch her wrist like a fallen twig. She looks at my hand, alarmed. I shush her, tucking her arms under the blanket. She tries to get up, pushing against me with her little claw fingers, ramming me with her head like a baby goat. I slide in beside her on the bed and wrap my arms around her.


Her body softens, and she rests her cheek against my chest. “I’m so tired,” she says.

“I know,” I say. “Close your eyes.”

I feel her fists unclench. She’s silent for a moment. “You know that’s what I used to say when you were a little girl, Jessie?” She’s back. “You’d get yourself so worked up, like a scared little rabbit. Your daddy was one mean son of a bitch. And you’d show up on my doorstep, with a fresh black eye or an arm just hanging there like a ragdoll’s.” She shakes her head, her soupy eyes gaze up at the ceiling. “Took a long time to calm you down.”

“I know. Hush now Lou.”

“’You’re safe now.’ I’d tell you.”

“I remember.”

Born and raised in Burbank, California, Alison Ozawa Sanders attended Stanford University for undergrad and Loyola University of Chicago for law school. She went on to become a prosecutor in Santa Cruz, California, for 11 years. In 2014 she and her husband moved their family to Singapore, where she is now able to pursue her first love, writing [bio credit: Amazon]. See her book, The Expats Guide to Singapore: Finding Your Feet on the Little Red Dot.