Writers on Writing: Kerri Mitchell

Kerri Mitchell is a member of the composition and rhetoric faculty in the department of English at Colorado State University. She earned her masters degree in English in 2000, writing a nonfiction thesis.

An Excerpt from "Fragile"

Randal used to be a cop. He worked in New York City arresting prostitutes on street corners - that's what the nurses at the Presbyterian Home told me. But the day I met him he was an old, sick man. His eyes were soggy and his face drooped. His blue flannel shirt hung loosely over his body.

The nurses warned, "He can still be feisty. Walk behind him, but not too far behind him. He likes to wander into the neighbors' homes and tell them to get out."

I was only sixteen, so meeting Randal felt like learning Chinese. I didn't know much about old people, let alone deranged old people, and I didn't care to. I had just gotten my license. I drove a red Saturn. I was in love with a blond haired boy. But I also had a hard time saying no, this time to my Mom's friend Patti who called that afternoon. She was Randal's lawyer and worried he was lonely. She said I was just the kind of person he should be around. But Randal didn't seem to think so. When the nurses left us alone in the pink wallpapered hallway, he looked at me like I was a slug.

We stood there for awhile staring at each other, sizing each other up. It was a cheerful place, lined with windows that overlooked a garden of shrubs and bird baths. To my left, three elderly people watched television. None of them seemed to notice me. One of them slept in a reclining chair. The other two, a woman with big rimmed glasses and a chubby man with no hair, sat on a sofa holding hands. I tried to imagine them going on dates. I pretended they were kids who just fell in love.