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“The Punch Card” by Janice McCrum


Let’s file away our passports, tickets and travel watches. Is this the time to laugh—or cry—about the punch card I designed? A make-believe count of the visits we might have left to see each other. Once, so optimistic. Twice a year, I thought back then. A mother, dreaming on the moon, longing for a son who lives too many miles away, where one parks cahs at Hahvuhd, eats lobsta at the Common with maybe some b’daydas, where one says Caw-plee Square instead of Cope-lee and everything has plenny a chahm until you drive Mass Av and end up stuck on the Pike. You smirked at my imaginary card, thinking like a child that life goes on forever. Maybe. Perhaps.


Mathematics, solves the world’s problems, the white-haired scholar wrote. With his formula in mind, I tallied up the years I might have left. Based on my mother’s and my aunts’, I found the mean. Subtracted my age from that surprising figure and nearly toppled over. The number left my fingers cold. Blocked my airway. Left me staring at the lilacs, their scent cloying at my nose. It was the worst hand I’ve ever held.


But Covid changes everything. So for now, let’s shelve the card with all the others from the sports club, coffee shop and bakery—that one still smells of rye.


We’ll hold on and wait for the borders to open. You on one side. Me on the other. Probability is just a guide. Right, chowdahead?

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