Joyland

Vancouver |

Would You Like a Little Gramma on Those?

by Jane-Eaton-Hamilton

edited by Kathryn Mockler

Carol’s sister Marjorie dangled a pendulum over Florida until it came to rest over Gainesville.

A jet-lagged Carol said, “Isn’t this where Ted Bundy had his farewell murder spree?”

Simone, Carol’s butch partner, said, “Not to mention the chain gangs.”

“You go off like a firecracker in all our faces,” said Carol’s brother, Lincoln, pushing back his chair. He’d beat them to Florida by days. Lincoln’s goatee had gone half grey. “Why on earth say that? Why bring that up now?”

“Is that true?” Lizbeth, Carol’s daughter, asked. “I saw a TV program on him. He was just some ordinary guy.”

“Shut-up,” Carol’s sister Marjory said in a reedy voice, hands fluttering around her ears. A cross around her neck, thick with rubies, slapped her cleavage. Her streaked hair was oily; she had stress-bruises under each brown eye. “Why would you bring that up?”

Carol said, “And didn’t some other guy here decapitate a bunch of college kids?”

“What’s decapitate?” asked Marjory’s son, Bradley.

Marjory cut her meat aggressively, said, “You’re so negative.”  She pointed her fork at Carol. “Everyone in Gainesville is God-fearing, not like certain places I could mention.” 

“Here we go,” Carol said.

Marjory stood, rattling the table. She’d gained the weight Lincoln had lost. “You weren’t here, any of you! Mom was lying by the toilet with her eyes bugging out.”  Marjory rocked in place, canted toward them, her cross swaying in front of her breasts. “I went to work, sure, but I thought she was fine. She said she was feeling good. But what if she was actually lying there in pain? That’s what I torture myself with. I called 9-1-1, and they said give her artificial respiration.” Marjorie rubbed her hand over her chest, then grabbed her rubies and held on hard. “I’m sorry, but I am not giving artificial respiration to a dead woman. I’m just not. I kept saying, She’s stiff, she’s stiff, I can’t, but they kept ordering me to try.”

Lincoln said, “Marjorie, sit down, okay? We know you’ve been stuck with the brunt of everything with Mom. Nobody’s attacking you. Carol and I are nothing but grateful.”

Francie, Carol’s youngest, with a safety pin through her eyebrow, said, “Gramma hated Gainesville.”

“What was I supposed to do, leave her in Key West to face hurricanes? You’re blaming me because of where I decided to live! None of that’s my fault. You’re horrible, Carol, you are. You’re just a freak and you don’t even know it.”

 

2

Lincoln said he’d taken up running. As a teen, he’d been a long distance guy, running 10 miles daily. Now he was back at it and he was up to 14 miles a day. His weight loss was the only good part of his shitty life, he said, the only thing pulling him through. He ran in the woods behind his house and along a river in British Columbia. It was a hunger, he said. He ran until his heart slammed his ribs and his lungs refused to bellow.

 

3

After the dishes, Marjorie invited them up to her bedroom.

Marjorie dumped a crumpled paper bag smaller than a child's fist out onto her slippery duvet cover, broaches and necklaces and rings rolling to hit everyone’s legs.

"These are from Mom’s safe deposit box," Marjorie said. "For you, Carol."

Carol fingered a topaz necklace. "You mean as my share of something? I don't want Mom's jewelry. I'd rather have her car."

"Lincoln gets her car."

"This stuff needs to be appraised," Carol said, lifting a gold necklace, "and I don't see her rings. Where are her fur coats?"

Marjorie looked across her bed at Lincoln. "She traded one ring in the deal for her mobile home."

"She said she had a sapphire ring for me."

Marjorie sent a worried look at Lincoln. "There is no sapphire ring. We're not having anything appraised. We're not even going to bother with probate. Lincoln gets the car. I'll take Mom's trailer. You get this jewelry."

"Probate's not arbitrary, Marjorie. It's the law."

"Well, I'm not declaring this stuff."

"You weren't even allowed to go into her safe deposit box."

"She was my mother and I'm her executor, and this is what I've decided you can have. This is your share."

Lincoln moved from foot to foot. His face crumpled like something was happening inside him, walls caving in. She said, "I don't wear jewelry. Did that escape your notice, Marjorie?"

Simone let a thin gold chain dribble through her fingers. 

Marjorie said, "Well, for the girls then."

Lizbeth held up bare arms. "I don't wear jewelry either."

"I sometimes wear silver but never gold," said Francie. "I really hate gold." 

"I saved this for last," said Marjorie, fishing a charm bracelet from her pocket. It had 30 charms, a globe, a glove, a gibbon.

"That was Granny's," Carol said in a soft voice, reaching for it. The charms jingled as she rotated it. "I always wondered where this ended up."

"I don't remember that," said Marjorie.

"Can I keep it?" said Lizbeth, taking it. She was 24, tiny, blonde with bangs in a short fringe. "As an heirloom. Not to wear, but as a family keepsake. Oh, please, Mom? Aunt Marjory? This is so beautiful."

"No!" said Marjory. "We all get one-third."

"You can't take it apart," said Francie. "It has to stay intact as the one piece that goes down through the family." 

Lizbeth said, "You can't take it apart, Aunt Marjorie."

"I might just keep it for myself," said Marjorie thoughtfully. "I didn't realize it was Granny's."

Carol jerked a hand through her hair. Lizbeth scooted closer to her, put a hand on her knee.

Marjorie said, "It will go to Lizbeth when I die." 

"You can't just arbitrarily decide things, Marjorie. This bracelet is one-third mine. It's not you and Lincoln get everything and I get the junk jewelry nobody else wants. We should draw straws, or flip coins or something."

Marjorie looked at the kids, steeled her voice. "Oh, jiminy. Girls, don't let your mother start in."

Carol said, "This charm bracelet should go to Mom's grandchildren."

"Which you own! Ha! I get you!"

Marjorie’s son was adopted.

"I own my children?" Carol said, her tone rising. Francie squeezed her arm. “My children possessing something is, unsurprisingly, exactly like me not having it, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Lincoln said, "I'm going out."

"I'd really like the car," Carol said. "You wouldn’t believe what I drive now. I want the car."

"You're not going to drive that car back to Canada," said Marjorie. "A woman alone.”

Lizbeth looked at her watch and then at her uncle. "It's nearly two in the morning already."

"No, honey," said Marjorie. "Uncle Lincoln does this. He always does this, every night. Just ignore him." 

Carol said, “Francie could drive with me."

"I'm going for a run," repeated Lincoln.

 

4

At something after 3, Lincoln burst through Marjorie’s door, winded, bent over, coughing, a scrape on his knee bleeding jerkily.

"What happened to you?" said Francie with a little cry.

Marjorie said, "Thank god you're back. Carol won't take the jewelry as her share."

"I got pepper sprayed." Lincoln’s eyes were swollen, red and extended. “Get me something. Get me water.”

Francie said, "Gross."

Lizbeth moved to get him a wet washcloth.

"Somebody reported a prowler in her back yard, or her garage or something, and first thing I knew was there were three cop cars circling me and cops leaped out screaming at me to get down, get down, and when I didn't, when I resisted, one of them sprayed me and yanked me down and cuffed me."

Carol’s brother massaged his wrist, where a red band had risen. He was jittery, a 6-foot column of thermometer mercury.

"And all the time I was screaming at them that they got the wrong guy, they got the wrong guy, I was just out for a run, I’m staying at my sister's around the corner, my mother just died, the funeral is tomorrow, we're having her cremated, listen to me, I'm not a rapist, I'm Canadian."

He bounced on the tension wires that were his legs, up on the balls of his feet, the legs that could run and run and run. He swiped back thinning hair, balled his hands into fists. “They were going to call for sniffer dogs to see how far into the suburb I’d been and I kept talking them down and they kept insisting dogs, and I kept telling them, Hey, it wasn’t me! It wasn’t me! You got the wrong guy, I’m here because my mom died, my mom died on Wednesday, call my sister if you don’t believe me, and I gave them your address, I—”

Carol folded her arms across her chest.

Lizbeth patted at his face with a damp washcloth. He couldn’t meet her eyes. “I kept saying where I was from. Canada, Canada, like it was some sort of charm. Finally, I had them laughing about the West Edmonton Mall.” 

“Are you okay?” said Marjorie. “That’s one nasty scrape.”

“I couldn’t go to jail,” he said bouncing on his toes. “You know what would happen to me in jail.”

“What would happen to you?” Carol asked. A memory tsunami’d back to her. All she could think about was Lincoln’s history, teen girls who broke up with him shaking, a young roommate who’d once told her that Lincoln had broken through her basement window and forced himself on her. A prickling sensation moved through Carol, forcing itself out through her capillaries. Everything dripped like a Dali painting—the clock, her brother, even her child. She wanted to know why he’d been thinking about jail and what would happen there. She wanted to know what her brother was capable of.  

But she realized she already knew what her brother was capable of. Had always known.

And she couldn’t un-know it.

The next morning, Carol made excuses that her sister’s smoking was a problem for her heart and took Simone and the youngsters to a motel.

 

5

They drove to the Keys to scatter their mother’s ashes. Lincoln passed Carol a jar three inches tall, a spice shaker. 'Do not use in canning,' it advised under a bas relief horn of plenty. Lincoln had fitted tin foil under the plastic cap to keep their mother inside.

Carol said, "Did you really just give me my mother’s ashes in a salt shaker?"

Lincoln said nothing.

Carol turned the salt shaker like a kaleidoscope. "Do you suppose this is actually Mom?"

This stopped her brother mid-pour. He turned to gawp. The skin was melting away from the architecture of his face, so that his eyes were now hooded. He had a new deep groove between his eyebrows.

"They found stacks of embalmed corpses out back of a Georgia crematorium," Carol said, shaking the jar, frowning. Bone chips clicked and settled, causing her to wonder if she might be holding her mother's kneecap, her mother's spine. Carol thought of the names of body bones—mandible, hyoid, scapula. She thought of the bone-crushing machine that passed over skeletons following cremation. "People got cremains all right, but who knows what from. Not their dear deceased, anyhow. Possibly from a pet hospital." 

A gust of hot wind riffled Lincoln's hair.

"This is Mom," Lincoln said firmly from his cloud of soot. He leaned into the back of their mother's RAV 4, scooping, bare-handed, their mother's ashes and aiming them at a chunky Coke bottle while the rear of her car filled up with what looked like smoke. “I decided I want some too.” 

The Coke bottle was half full. Lincoln twisted on the cap and stowed it, then began lifting handfuls of Carol’s mother off the carpet and back into her plastic bag, before shoving the bag back into its vinyl urn. When Lincoln stood, back rounded as he had been since youth, his hands were coated in bone-dust. He brushed off vigorously, but the dust caught in a hot eddy of ocean wind and stalled to swirl around Carol’s head, a furious funnel.

Lincoln passed her the box of cremains, sighed. "Mom's all over that."

"I don’t care," Carol said, cuddling it close. She missed her mother. She hadn’t stopped to think how much harder it would be to get along with her siblings without their mother around to buffer them. Everywhere Carol touched the box, she left fingerprints.

They walked towards the water. This was where their mother had fished turpin and wahoo. The vista spooling out made her heart catch.

 

6

The woman loaning the boat—a friend of Marjorie's—asked Lizbeth who the gentleman was. “My uncle?” Lizbeth asked, “Uncle Lincoln?”

Katie said, “The other gentleman. Is that your boyfriend?”

“Oh,” Lizbeth told Katie, “Oh, no. That’s my other mother.”

           

7

Lincoln said, “Have you ever noticed that a lot of houses are empty during the day and only fill up with light, at dusk, everyone home from work, a child setting the table?” 

Carol said, “No. No, I haven’t. And please god you need to stop thinking like that.” 

 

8

The night before, they’d gone for dinner. Lincoln had lurked near the crab tank trying to pick up the waitress with a pelican on her t-shirt, the bird diving avidly towards her right nipple. He told her he didn’t think the crabs, in their slow, clacky slide through the murky water of their tank, their antennae and googly eyes waving, could really be called alive.

All night, Lincoln’s eyes tracked the young woman. 

Fishnets hung from the ceiling, with conchs and starfish caught in the webbing. A battered dinghy rocked, suspended on chains.

Carol heard Lincoln ask the server where she lived.

Carol stood and took the woman aside. “If you have somewhere else you can be tonight, other than in Grassy Key, you should go there.”

“Why?” she said.

“My brother ... Just, my brother. I don't know. Stay somewhere else tonight.”

 

9

Carol watched Lincoln rinse his hands under a tap at the side of the boat. The water ran grey as their mother disappeared down the drain. She wondered what her mom would have thought last week if Carol told her in six days she’d be all over the backseat of her car, poured into a salt shaker and a Coke bottle as well as flushed down the sewer system in Key West.

She might not have died.

“It’s very kind of you to do this,” Carol said to the boat captain.

Pete launched into a description of the 1400-acre gated community, its seven restaurants, three laundromats, five stores, its Protestant and Catholic churches, its two golf courses.  Steak, he said, was pricey—it was cheaper to drive into Key West to the Piggly Wiggly and stock up.

“They weren’t going to let Simone in,” Carol said. “Because she’s Chinese.”

“They check credentials. They don’t mean anything by that.” 

“So, buddy,” said Pete to Lincoln, “how’d it go last night? Get lucky?”

Lincoln shrugged. “I ran all the way to Grassy Key and then back to Islamorada.” 

Carol tried hard not to think of the server.

They boarded the boat, a 33 Cobra Predator. Marjorie extended a hand to help Simone, told her, “This boat just sank two feet when you got on.”

 

10

Was anybody heartsick about their mother? Carol wondered. The funeral had been dismal; Marjorie had decided not to announce it, so it had been only immediate family. Their tiny embalmed mother had been propped up so high in her coffin it looked like she might crack open her eyes and ask if she might trouble them for a cup of coffee, a sandwich, a TV set. Really, she was a model dead person, someone the funeral home could use to advertise caskets, rosy-cheeked and calm, her skin tightened. She wore a beige suede jacket and corduroy jeans. The family trailed in together, and then they slunk back in one at a time. Simone went out to Carol’s rental car and got out a box of photographs she’d taken from their mother’s trailer so they could put pictures in the casket. They tucked in photos of their mother’s cats and her dog, Rocky, and family shots, a photograph of Carol and her family glowing with happiness.

 

11

The boat slammed the water like a rock onto pavement. Carol’s teeth hurt. She passed her mother to her daughters. When there was no coastline visible, Pete eased back the throttle, then dropped anchor. They were over a reef, he said, but even so, it was hardly calm. In all four directions, watery horizon, the sky blue tempera, no clouds. A plain brown pelican caught the updraft.

“Hey, is that Mom?” said Marjorie.

“It’s probably not Mom,” said Carol.

Marjorie laughed and said, “You wouldn’t have a clue.”

“What are you?” said Lincoln to Simone.

Religion, he meant. Simone said, “Nominally Buddhist.” 

“And you’re a witch,” Marjorie said to Carol. 

“An atheist,” Carol said, shrugging.

No one was ready to acknowledge why they were there. No one wanted to be the one to say, Hey, let’s dump Mom overboard although Carol couldn’t imagine it as a worse fate than the ones she’d already encountered. Somewhat better, perhaps, than the sewer.

They could make out purple fan formations in the water like hair clips. The sun beat down but the wind was strong.

Carol said, “Should someone say something about Mom?”

“Mom liked gardening,” said Marjorie.

“She liked roses,” Simone said because they’d bought her gift certificates at garden centres.

“Dogs,” said Lincoln.

“Interior design,” said Lizbeth.

“I guess I meant does anyone want to talk about the kind of person she was?” said Carol.

Marjorie said, “Well, she was good to animals. She was sweet to my son.” 

Carol said, “Anyone?”

But no one said anything. Carol wondered what she could say—she’d left her eulogy at the hotel. Truth was, she had avoided her mother.

Mom was racist and homophobic? Mom was an addict? Mom was petty and cruel? I loved her?

She’d started to read her eulogy to their dead mother in her casket while Marjorie, Lincoln and the kids ringed her, but Lincoln had told her to stop. Now she said,“ Mom was a very damaged person.”

“Oh, she was not, Carol,” said Marjorie, sighing. “As if.”

 

12

Lincoln reached for the box, which Carol passed. Lincoln’s goatee bristled. He said, “Does everyone know what to expect? This is just a plastic bag in here.”

The boat rocked in the heavy sun. Marjorie had brought a bouquet of corner store flowers, dyed mums and baby’s breath.

“I guess I could say a few things,” Carol said. “I want to honour her.”

Lincoln said, “No, you don’t. You just want to cause the rest of us more pain.”

Marjorie said, “This sucks, and I can’t figure out to say how awful it is. The whole thing sucks.” 

Pete said, “You should say something,” but Marjorie shook her head violently. “Lincoln?”

“No,” he said.

“Anyone?”

Pete said, “I really liked her. She used to phone me up a lot when she still lived down here in the Keys, usually to complain about Marjorie. She didn’t call so much when she moved upstate.”

“She was very unhappy up north,” Carol said.

“Oh fuck off, Carol,” said Marjorie.

Marjorie leaned toward Carol and said, “That sewing machine you’re mailing back to Canada, Carol, from Mom’s craft room? That was worth $3000.” 

Carol looked at her.

“If you think you could just take it, you’re wrong. It’s part ours. You have to pay us.”

“You said take anything she wanted from the trailer,” Lizbeth pointed out.

“Take it,” said Marjorie, “not not pay for it.”

"I'm not having this discussion now," Carol said.

Carol stood by the railing beside Lincoln. 

Lincoln yanked out the bag of ashes and stuck in his hand for a fistful, which he released. It swirled in the wind. There was a sizzling sound when the thousands of tiny particles hit the water. Carol thought about how Marjorie’s cat used her guest room sink, the room where their mother had dropped dead, as its litter box, how it had apparently leaped over their mother after she died and had a shit.

“What are those white things?” said Marjorie going over.

“Pebbles,” said Lincoln. 

“Bone chips,” Carol said.

“Ew,” said Marjorie. “I can’t touch that.”

Carol took a handful. She held her hand out and slowly opened it so ash drifted away. Everyone leaned over the side of the boat to watch. The water clouded, then cleared. White bits reflected the sunshine like diamond chips and sank in a slow, swirling ballet.

“Dust to dust,” said Lincoln. 

Marjorie said, “Ashes to ashes.”

The last of the ashes sank below the waves and glittered in the reef like a smattering of Canadian snow.

 

13

Carol found a free clerk at Albertson’s and asked her where she could find packing tape. 

“Packing tape?”  The clerk, Dierdre, blinked and a mole twitched on her cheek.

“Moving tape.”

“Honey, you used to rent movies on over there.” Diedre pointed towards a Blockbuster kiosk. “But that’s closed down now. You can stream them online.”

“Moving tape,” Carol repeated. The clerk's nails were bitten to the quick.  “Packing tape.”

“You want to tape yourself a movie? Lots of folks do that these days, honey. They use digital memory.”

The toe of Carol’s sandal scuffed the tile. “I want to pack up some boxes. I just need tape.”

“Well, honey, tape would be in school supplies.”

"Could you maybe tell me where I’d find hardware?”  

“Well, hardware is aisle seven, sweetie, but that’s for men folk.”

Carol swept up tape, twine, a tape gun, then moved along to school supplies for permanent markers. Dierdre was still unoccupied at her till; she pushed sheaves of bushy hair from her eyes and ran Carol’s items over her scanner like stretching gum. “Why you need all this stuff, honey? For your husband?” 

Simone was in the car with the kids. Simone had already, on the heart-sore trip, fielded a dozen inquiries about her gender.

The Albertson's clerk said, “You moving or something, sugar?” 

“My mom died. We’re packing up her house.”

A couple on the edge of decrepitude hovered in line behind Carol with a box of Depends.

“I’m so sorry, sweetie. Your mama just died or do you mean a while back?”

“Just. A few days ago. She fell off a ladder putting up a computer shelf.”

“Praise be, my mama is still here.” Dierdre went to work chewing a hangnail, fiddling it with her tongue. Her nails were very red, but the polish had been half consumed. 

Carol felt her heart go arrhythmic. The air con snaked across the back of her neck. The people in line behind her moved from foot to foot frowning; they were probably snowbirds like Carol’s mother and soon their own nincompoop daughter was going to be standing right where Carol was having this same talk with Dierdre about ferreting through their left-behind possessions, and there wouldn't be thing they could do to stop her.

“You’re packing your mama’s belongings up?” Dierdre lifted a roll of packing tape and examined it cross-eyed at her face.  

“That’s right.” Carol said. Her throat was salty, like ocean, like blood, but she wasn't sure if that was from trauma or salt in the air.  

“You’re moving her stuff out so you can move in, honeybunch?"  

“No, I’m going back home.”

“You’re selling her house, hon?”

A tsk from the couple next in line. “That’s right," I told Dierdre. 

“Where’s your home?” 

“Canada.”

“You came all the way down here from Canada just for your mama?” 

“We were planning a trip to visit her in June, all four of us, but she didn’t make it.” 

“Do you speak French?”

“I don’t. A little. A smattering of high school French.”

“It snows in Canada,” observed Dierdre looking at her nails. 

“Not so much where I live. We had daffodils blooming when I left.” In February. 

“Daffodils? That’s a flower, right?” 

“Harbingers of northern spring?” She regretted her choice of words as soon as they were out. Her sister had already been on her for using big words around Bradley, though none of the ones she used quite seemed as large and unwieldy as his mother’s name for her, which was “Aunt Evil.”

The elderly couple sighed and shifted. 

“Honey,” Dierdre said, holding the tape gun out like a pistol. “What is this thing here? It doesn’t have a bar code. Where did you get it? I don’t think this is something we sell.” 

“There’s a bin of them,” Carol said. She gauged how long it would take her to get to and from the hardware aisle to get one with a tag. 

“I’ll just have to call for some help." Dierdre swiveled in her chair. Carol expected an intercom, a youngster in rollerblades, but Dierdre just yelled. “Morton! Yoo hoo there, Morton!”

The woman next in line said, “For pity’s sake," but Dierdre was undeterred. A senior rowed up in an aluminum walker, took the tape gun and turned it over in his raisin-spotted hands.

Dierdre enunciated slowly and clearly. “Go and find me the price, Morton. I need the bar code.”

“What is this cockamamie thing?” said Morton. His eyes were cavernous over pouched skin.

“I need the price,” repeated Dierdre. “Go on, now, Morton. Go find me the price.”

The woman in line said, “Why don’t you just pay for what you have and let us go?”

Carol looked at her, glanced back at Dierdre. No matter how long she took with this transaction, her mother was not going to jump back to life. She’d seen her dead in a suede jacket, had watched through a window as Lincoln raised the casket lid and removed photographs she’d tucked inside. Slowly, Dierdre rescanned her tapes and markers. Before she announced how much Carol owed, Morton was back.

Morton waved the tape gun aloft like a chrome pelican. “What the G-d heck did you want me to do with this thing, Dierdre?” 

“Price!” hollered Dierdre. 

“Did you want to know what this gadget is? I don’t know what it is. I think a workman left it behind.” He turned to Carol. “Look here. We had renovations. This isn’t ours.”

“The price!” Diedre repeated deliberately. She rolled her eyes at Carol. “A code to scan.”

“There aren’t any of these doohickeys in this store.”

Carol told Diedre she would just look for herself. Dierdre slid the tape and markers over her scanner a third time, reversing the charges.

“You can use the customer service desk when you come back, honey, okay?” She leaned forward and patted Carol’s hand the way Marjorie had patted their mother’s hand in her coffin. "You won’t have to stand in line all over again.”

Carol wandered back to the hardware aisle and found another tape gun with the proper identification glued to it. Morton appeared in front of her and lifted up his walker, caging her in. “What is that?” he said. “Say what that is. Tell me what in tarnation you have there and tell me why you want it.”

“It’s a tape gun,” Carol said. "It dispenses packing tape."

He narrowed his eyes. The grey rubber nobs on his walker were dirty and worn.

“For sealing packed boxes," Carol said. 

“You stole that,” he said; the walker jabbed out. “You’re just a robber.”

“Look, it has a tag,” Carol said and held it up for display. “My mother died. I’m responsible for packing up her place.”

“I don’t believe what you’re telling me,” he said, and gave the walker one last good jolt for emphasis before lowering it. “Your mother did not die.” 

Carol wondered whether he could be right. When she’d thrown the handful of her mother’s ashes overboard into the blue Caribbean, the wind had swept them back into her face. Carol shook her head. “The thing is, I don’t know how to go on without her. That’s what mystifies me. I just want to talk to her again one time.” She pushed hair away from her face. “I know that’s cliché.”

“It’s not cliché if she’s alive and you’re making this up.” 

Carol nodded. He was certainly right about that. “I have to go,” she said, and Morton made no move to stop her.

By the time she reached Dierdre’s check-stand again, the customer service section had clapped out a sign saying they’d gone to lunch. Carol was hungry herself, and for something more than food. Instead of going to the back of Dierdre’s line to wait, she stood at the finish waiting for the snowbirds to be done. They might die, she thought, by the time Dierdre counted out their change, in which case Carol might have to pack up their house too.

The customer shook a finger Carol’s way. “You can't check out here! Go to customer service like you were told.”

Carol just stood there waiting for Dierdre with her mother turning to salt in her pocket.

 

15

“Uncle Lincoln makes me nervous,” said Lizbeth. 

Carol plonked the salt shaker of ashes on the table, which she’d brought inside for safekeeping. They ordered burgers and fries, which the server soon slid in front of them.

Lizbeth said, “I’m glad we get to go home. I don’t like it here.”

“I wish there was vinegar, at least,” said Simone.

Carol shook pepper over her fries. There was too much of something and not enough of something else today. The absence kept squeezing her like a change in air pressure, as if there was about to be a storm.

Francie picked up the salt shaker. “Hey, Mom. Would you like a little Gramma on those?”