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Auntie Ned burped up the warm taste of blood, of the red rare rib-eye steak she had had for dinner. Her long fingers, knuckles enlarged with arthritis, slid along her yellow Formic tabletop, cleaning up the final nonexistent crumbs. Another evening dripped shadow by shadow into night. She would move soon, from the table to the green sofa in her living room, turn on a light, turn on the TV, pass the time until she went to bed. She felt a bubbling in her intestines, tasted the sour starts and stops of regurgitation in the back of her throat. Heartburn.

Her hand, this crone's liver-spotted and twisted hand, had once caressed the curve of a perfect flank, stroked the rump of her deepest desire, traced the swoop of each rib. These old fingers had tangled with hair and buttons, had worshiped, wiggling into orifices, touching, praying, adoring.

Another burp. A harder, hot pinch in her bowels, then down to her thighs, around to the small of her back. She shifted in her yellow vinyl chair. She wanted to scream, but screaming wouldn't help. Get up, she told herself, pick up the phone, write a letter. No one on the other end. Her throat was swelling, scarlet and inflamed. Her flattened breasts, her thighs sagging like old curtains were hers alone for the rest of time. She banged the table with both hands. And again. She smelled her own bitter perspiration, felt the sweat bubble up in the wrinkles on her forehead, slide into the creases of her neck, boil in the folds under her arms.

She looked down. Steam escaped between the buttons of her flowered blouse.