How It Ought to Be

By David J. Bauman

Featured art by Édouard Manet

When we stepped up into the bus that shuttled us
from car to hospital, she was talking to the man in
the overcoat and fedora. But at the next stop,
he stood up, tipped his hat and clambered down the steps.

Her smile made me think of plums, though barely a brush
of rouge on her cheeks. She wore a heavy, old-woman’s wrap-
around, like a blanket with buttons, tugged about her like a fur
stole. The bus lurched forward, and she turned toward the lady

When we stepped up into the bus that shuttled us
from car to hospital, she was talking to the man in
the overcoat and fedora. But at the next stop,
he stood up, tipped his hat and clambered down the steps.

Her smile made me think of plums, though barely a brush
of rouge on her cheeks. She wore a heavy, old-woman’s wrap-
around, like a blanket with buttons, tugged about her like a fur
stole. The bus lurched forward, and she turned toward the lady

two seats up. “May I ask where you got that gorgeous shawl?”
“Oh, please don’t,” the other laughed. “It’s very old. They don’t
make them anymore.” The fur-plum lady in her blanket- coat
began to recount how her gran used to wrap her

in a shawl like that, but bigger, “Half the size of a bed sheet! My
grandfather walked behind to help unwrap me when
I got to school.” I whispered in your ear, causing you to giggle.
“Is he misbehaving?” she asked you, like a scolding but

indulgent aunt. She asked us what we’d had for breakfast. What
time was our appointment? Hers were always early. What were
our plans for the holiday? Easter—still two weeks away. “Well,”
she said as she stood up, “if you’re still hungry,

come to my place. I always have plenty left over. “She drew
her massive coat around her and took the steps one at a time.
“Poor soul,” the driver said, and for a moment I wondered,
whose? “She says that kinda stuff to everyone.” He pulled

the lever that closed the door. “She lives alone.” This time, you
whisper to me, and two weeks later, we are standing
on her lawn. You carry the pies. I have the wine. The woman in
the floral shawl holds a casserole, the shuttle bus parked

at the curb. We thought we’d surprise her, but the fur-plum lady
beams like she’s expecting us as she throws the door open, takes
our jackets and hangs them by the others, rows of hats and
wraps, a fedora and an overcoat. She shows us to our seats

at a table impossibly long for her tiny home. Others in white
lab coats are unfolding extra chairs. A doctor with her stethoscope
is lighting the candles. A young man from the hospital café
helps the CEO fill glasses with sparkling water. Other
guests we recognize from shuttle rides and waiting rooms.

The table is draped—I see it now—with that grand, old shawl
of yore, adorned with salads, collard greens, and plums, of course,
scalloped potatoes, and beans of every hue. You’re smiling
like you used to as the oncologists enter with steaming platters,
boats of gravy. And the doorbell just keeps ringing.


David J. Bauman is the author of two poetry chapbooks, including Angels & Adultery (Seven Kitchens Press, 2018), as well as a collaborative chap with his son Micah James Bauman, called Mapping the Valley: Hospital Poems in which “How It Ought to Be” is the concluding poem (Seven Kitchens Press, 2021). David’s poems have been published in a number of literary magazines and anthologies, including Watershed Review, Citron Review, and Lovejets: Queer Male Poets on 200 Years of Walt Whitman (Squares and Rebels, 2019).

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