Coping with Unemployment While My Grandmother Is Dying

After losing my job, I moved home and attended my cousin’s wedding. The morning of, someone asked where Grandma was. I said I’d find her. I went outside and there she was wandering around the parking lot—small, curly white hair, wrinkle-eaten face.

“Are you excited about the wedding?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

I put a hand on her shoulder.

She said, “No. This is not my world. You know, I woke up this morning very sad and I don’t know why. I had your grandfather take me to the nursery. That always makes me happy. I like to watch the flowers grow. I like to watch things grow.”

And I said, “Nice, that’s nice.”

She looked up at the hotel we were all staying in and said, “The world was so broken when I was young. I had so many plans. I had so many plans to fix it. But, well, then I got married and had children and I took all of that energy for those plans and put them into protecting my children so that one day they could fix things—but, they just went on ahead and got married and had their own children and now those children are getting married too and—and, well, the world is still broken.”

She placed a hand over the top of her eyes to get a good look at me.

“Don’t worry, Grandma, I have no plans to get married. I can’t even keep a job,” I told her.

But she still looked sad. And she said, “Everything moves so fast. It just keeps moving faster and faster.”

“Do you need to sit down?” I said.

And she nodded. So, I took her by the arm and walked with her into the shade of a nearby tree.

*

My grandmother walked in and said, “I am tired today—I had a nightmare last night. And your grandfather said I was squeaking in my sleep. You know—eek, eek, eek,” she said.

I said, “Maybe you were a lab rat?”

She laughed. She said, “Ha. Well, no—you know, I don’t remember, but I’ve had nightmares before where I am running from a monster, and it had those tiny arms. It was like a T-Tear—Tee, oh—whatever.”

“Tyrannosaurus rex?” I said.

“Yes! I was being chased by a Tyrannosaurus rex and, you know. I had no weapons.”

“Shit,” I said.

“Yes. Shit. I had no weapons, so in my dream, I thought if I make squeaking noises—eek, eek, eek—you know.”

“So, the T-Rex would be scared away?” I said.

She said, “Right! And the cat kept coming in the middle of the night and standing on my chest and pawing my face. I’d bat him away, but he’d keep coming back and batting my face and waking me up, so—you know, anyways, no, I didn’t sleep well and so now I am tired. It is too much excitement for an old lady. I felt so helpless.”

“But you survived,” I said, smiling.

She frowned, looked out of the window, then back at me.

“So, have you found a job yet?”

And I said, “No.”

She smiled. “Well, that is okay. You’re safe here.”

*

I started helping out at my uncle’s law office during the weekdays—filing papers, answering calls, picking up lunch. I sat behind the desk in front of the entryway when my grandmother meandered in, went to look out the window, then puttered on to stand in front of my desk and said, “I think I’m dying.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Pretty sure. All I do is burp and fart and those are things that corpses can do.”

I shuffled around the papers while she stood and patted the top of the desk with both of her knob-knuckled hands. Then she said, “I think the only way everything is going to get fixed in the world is if people learn to love more.”

I leaned back and told her, “I think that’s too optimistic. I think we need aliens.”

“Aliens?” she asked, putting both hands to the side of her head with one finger up on each.

“Yeah,” I said. “Aliens, like—so, basically it’s like if there are these omnipotent aliens that just hover above the world and zap anybody who does something wrong.”

She shrugged and said, “Sounds a lot like God.”

“They’re nothing like God. They don’t care if you’re gay or anything like that. They just zap people if they’re, you know, like, being a dick.”

She said, “No, no. That’s not love.” And then she said, “How are you liking your new job?”

“This isn’t my job,” I said, motioning around me as if to say: This is what you think I’ve amounted to? before clarifying. “I am just helping out.”

“Helping out,” she parroted my last words. “Helping out. Good.”

She stood there a bit longer, frowning at her own hands. Then she sighed and began shuffling back toward the door where she stopped and said, “I love you,” before wandering back out the way she came in.

Benjamin Davis is a recovering fintech journalist, folklore addict, and author of a novella-in-verse: The King of FU (Nada Blank, 2018). His stories can be found in Hobart Pulp, Maudlin House, Star 82 Review, 5×5, Cease, Cows, Bending Genres, and elsewhere.

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