Audrey Ferber

The List of Plagues

A short story

The husband sits on the curb of a wide, four-laned San Francisco boulevard. The air is crisp but he wears no jacket, no socks. His old slippers, the leather scuffed colorless, splay out in front of him, half off his feet. He’s still holding his cell phone. He’s called his wife.

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  • Wendy Patrice Williams

    Absolutely brilliant. The back and forth, high then low. Once I started, thinking I’d read a few lines and finish later, I couldn’t stop. The details are spot-on. The ending perfect–no parrots, but there is a toast.

  • Phil Semler

    They met thirty years ago when there was no manifest age
    difference. Now, the wife is sixty-two, the husband eighty. Husband’s dementia,
    depression, indifference, retreat. Wife wants to live life to the fullest. Wife
    must look after, take care of, wipe the piss, obey, and resent—not what she
    signed on for. The list of plagues should include old age, distance, abandonment
    of love and sex, no children for comfort (or taking care of the wife!), and the
    precious remnants remaining when memory empties. A poignant and
    timeless story about the lack of equality in a marriage as one ages more
    quickly than the other. I wonder what I would do?

  • Basya Petnick

    I read this when it was first published and now this morning again. So well crafted–every line, every word, every image. I like the use of “the husband” and “the wife” which immediately reveals their polarity, their distance, and their sacred connection. It’s scary–I don’t want want to be either one of them (I’ve been both of them)–and yet as my boomer generation ages, this is what is happening all around me. We were born around the time when penicillin was discovered and it saved us from infectious diseases, but it has also cast us into the arms of diabetes, arthritis, and dementia to name only a few of the most common tormentors. Longer lives at this stage of medical science are a mixed blessing, and “not for sissies.” Parrots come and go. The sky changes blue to gray to dark and back to blue again. The plagues… a great and memorable story.