a shell of their former selves

Cicadas buzzed around her head, her feeble arms and gnarled hands unable to rise high enough to shoo them away. Pistol, younger than his sister by only 10 months, had the vital chore of waving a thin cardboard fan from Heston’s Funeral Home to keep the pests at bay.

His shock of ginger hair stood up at all angles as if he had been electrified by the crackling heat of the sweltering July afternoon. He used the fan, saved from a recent burial service of a contemporary of the old woman’s, more to move the hot air around his face than as a weapon against the beetles annoying his Meemaw.

Pleased that his parents considered him old enough for this important responsibility, Pistol was still afraid of the old woman. Wizened and hunched, with wispy white hair thinner than Big Daddy’s nearly bald head, her rubbery lips sunk in on her toothless smile. Her face reminded Pistol of an old apple he found in the spring house one winter.

Wads of white foam collected at each corner of her lips. Pistol’s older sister, Scout, convinced him this was from a colony of spittlebugs she kept in her mouth. With that image hot in his mind, he never got close enough for her to hug or kiss him, Because of his fear, he was also never close enough for his fanning to be effective.

His father, standing to one side of the yard with the men beneath a spreading oak tree, had removed his Sunday coat and tie. Wet stains were growing under his arm pits and down his back. Shade from the tree giving little relief from the oppressive sun.

Mother, looking cool and fresh despite the heat, was with the other ladies in the kitchen, putting final touches to the potluck dinner about to be served.

The family was gathered to observe Meemaw’s 97th birthday. More a vigil than a celebration, each year was expected to be her last.

Rule of thirds

Trifecta, a weekly one-word prompt, challenges writers to use that word in its third definition form, using no less than 33 words or no more than 333. The week’s prompt is: Observe [verb \əb-ˈzərv\3: to celebrate or solemnize (as a ceremony or festival) in a customary or accepted way