Affect vs. Effect
Even as she made room in her hospital bed
for the bone cancer that plagued her,
no one would have guessed it that day
by the way she flirted with her husband,
who sat in a visitor's chair by her side,
or when she compared the cafeteria food
she ate that afternoon to the non-slip socks she wore.
And when the sound of applause
echoed through the overhead television
from across the room
displaying the countless categories,
the hopeful contestants,
and the dour game show host from behind the podium,
she broke out of conversation occasionally
and responded to the questions.
She knew everything it seemed:
the state fruit of Idaho,
the French word for grandmother,
even the longest river in Europe.
Yet her voice eventually stumbled
when a grammar question appeared
as she had trouble distinguishing
between the words “affect” and “effect.”
So her husband, a retired English teacher,
leaned over and held her cold hands
in the shape of a prayer,
reminding her that one was a verb,
the other a noun.
One meant to influence,
whereas the other meant an outcome.
The next day, her ninetieth birthday,
he decided to surprise her
holding a posy of Gerbera daisies,
a box of assorted Swiss chocolates,
and, jokingly, a copy
of The Elements of Style
by Strunk and White.
But when he entered her doorway,
he found himself only greeted
by the raised head of the floor nurse
who was placing new sheets on an empty bed.
It was there he finally understood
how one word could be mistaken for the other.
He loved camping for two reasons:
one, it was the perfect opportunity
for him to get away from it all—
the bitter divorce, the child he never saw,
the one bedroom shack he couldn't afford,
but most importantly the bottle.
And as we walked along trails all day,
he would skip stones across ponds we passed
and ascend on hills more manageable than others back home.
Anything to shake the shakes.
The other reason: it was a chance
for him to prove if he still had it. Survival.
Like how to build a tinder bundle
for the campfire that night,
and where to pitch a tent without stakes,
or finally, his least favorite,
when to signal for help.
Cord Moreski is a poet/ teacher from Ocean Grove, New Jersey.
He is the author of the chapbook Stay Afloat Inside (2016,
Indigent Press) and was a nominee for 2016 Poet Laureate of
Asbury Park. His work has been featured in Silver Birch Press,
VerseWrights, The Yellow Chair Review, Eunoia Magazine, Five 2
One Magazine, and several other magazines and journals. When
Moreski is not writing, he teaches middle school children to not