Dementia in a Book Club

Dementia in a Book Club


Operator: 911, what’s your emergency?

Caller: Somethingbad’sgonnahappentomyfamily.

Operator: Sweetie, take a deep breath and slow down.

Caller: Mommy’s smashing things. Dad’s yelling and grandpa’s not here yet to pick me up.  (Caller starts to cry).

Operator: Sweetie, I’m listening, you sound like a good girl, but crying ain’t gonna make things right. Can we please not cry?


The A.C is blowing in your face but you’re sweating. You’re wearing a tie that feels like hands tightening around your neck and you don’t know why you’re wearing it or why you’re in this room. You’re trying to hide your panic while making sense of things.

 “Mr. Larsson, can I have an autograph?”

You smile while trying to calm your ragged breath, pretend like those moving lips and watchful eyes aren’t stealing the air you should be breathing. You count to ten, then you count to twenty, then…

 “Mr. Larsson will see to autographs after the debate is over.”

The woman with red lips smiles. She signals to the seat next to her.

“Mr. Larsson, congratulations.” She holds a book that’s got your name on it. Heads turn to her then the book then to you.

“Why?”  You dare ask. The crowd laughs, like in one of those sitcoms where laughter is exaggerated, staged, forced in. A man with a bushy beard and glasses crosses his arms. He’s not laughing, but like everyone else his eyes are fixed on you.


Caller: I turned six last week and they started fighting and forgot the cake. They don’t love me anymore.

 Operator: Did mom or dad hit you or hurt you? 

Caller: They let me walk to school alone. Other kids think that’s cool but it’s not. It’s always cold outside.  Mom is always on her phone. She sits on the sofa watching T.V. with a bottle that dad calls booze.  She’s stopped tucking me into bed or giving me goodnight kisses. She cries in the morning. She takes pills. And Dad’s at work or on his phone. He reads magazines that have pictures of ladies without any clothes on. (Sobs are followed with violent coughing).

Operator: Sweetie, are you alright?


Dementia in a Bookclub. Interesting title for a book about family. Why do you think your novel won the National Book Award?”

The twang in her voice feels like a disturbance in the heart of a lake. It reminds  you of Belinda. You squint as the pounding in your head becomes ruthless. You were supposed to be meeting. Not here. At the lawyer’s office?

“Your critics claim the book’s undeserving, that it’s more of a memoir, and that your main characters are modeled after your late ex-wife, actress Belinda James, and your daughter Genny Larsson whom you haven’t talked to for years.”  Miss Red-Lip’s green eyes scare you. You couldn’t see yourself in them. Who is she? Why is she bringing up Belinda? The A.C’s blowing in your face, but it’s hot. Your lungs are on fire. You can’t breathe.


Caller: PLEASE! Pick me up and give me a lift to grandpa? He’s famous. He wrote a book about us as in grandma Belinda, mom, and me.

(Short pause followed by audible coughing sounds with ruckus and screaming in the background).

Operator: Sweetie, are you there?

Caller: There’s smoke in the kitchen. My Doll’s in there. It’s everywhere like black ghosts. Help! It smells bad, like burning. Mom! Mom! Daaad!

Operator: Sweetie what’s going on?

Caller: (line disconnects).

 “I need to see my lawyer. Belinda’s waiting. I promised.” You utter like a man possessed. The A.C. stops working. Your held breath scrapes at your chest.

“Excuse me?”

Your eyes sting with blinding hot tears but that doesn’t mean you can’t see them. Your ghosts. They creep inside the room from the vent, their voices a low hum, their blackness circulating like vultures above their prey.

“This is enough.” Bushy beard and glasses springs up next to you. “Mr. Larsson, I’m your physician, Dr. Mendes, we have to take you back to the hospital. This whole debate thing was a bad call.”

You point to the windows, to the door, to the way out.

In the sitcom crowd, someone loosens his own tie. A woman coils back in her seat, a cough rasps from her chest like a warning. Someone blinks several times, you watch their eyes and you see reflected in them your ghosts, all charcoal and smoke.

Miss Red Lips holds your gaze; she sees them slithering, closing in. She ditches the book and runs.

“The Place’s on fire!”

 The sitcom faces see them too that’s when the ring of their screams goes unheard against the loud thump of their colliding bodies.

Your right fist is clenched tight around something. It scratches against your skin. That much you notice before Dr. Bushy beard and glasses pulls your arm and pushes you forward in a ridiculous attempt to save your life.  You look at the crumpled note in your fist and you  feel deep down that you’re supposed to remember something.


Team Coverage: Developing News


“Today the 8th of November, 2018, we deliver the saddest update as more residents from Butt County, California are forced to evacuate leaving behind hundreds of burning homes in the midst of the sweeping Paradise fire which originally started in Camp Creek Road. Dispatch center sent first responders after a distress 911 call from a six-year-old said her house on Pulga Road was on fire. Another call came in after the fires swept an entire building where a group of literary enthusiasts  were discussing author George Larsson’s latest best- selling novel. Reports claim that the author was present during the debate and that he survived, but sadly his daughter and granddaughter, who at the time were in their home also on Pulga Road did not. At least 85 people are reported dead. The California department of Forestry and Fire Protection are doing their best to contain the fires.

Riham Adly

Riham Adly is an Egyptian writer/blogger/ translator. Her fiction has appeared in over forty online journals such as Litro Magazine, The Citron Review, The Sunlight Press, Flash Frontier, Flash Back, Ellipsis Zine, Okay Donkey, Bending Genres, New Flash Fiction Review, Connotation Press, Spelk, The Cabinet of Heed, and Vestal Review among others. Her stories have been nominated in 2019 for “Best of the NET” and the Pushcart Prize. One of her stories have been selected for inclusion in The Best Microfiction 2020. She has forthcoming stories in Lost Balloon. Riham lives with her family in Giza, Egypt.


  1. Sad with a touch of dark humor. Hard to laugh but better spirits may help many get through this awful condition afflicting the elderly.

  2. Sadly, I have lost friends and family to various forms of this dreadful condition. Your sad but beautiful story chimes well with my imagination on what their experience of it might have been like.

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