Eastern Standard Tribe – Day 18 of 64

“I’m an old lady, you know that. You’ll remember me when I go, won’t you Art?”

This, too, is a ritual question that Art can’t answer well enough no matter how he practices. “Of course, Gran. But you’ll be around for a good while yet!”

“When are you coming back to Toronto?” He’d ducked the question before, but Gran’s a master of circling back and upping the ante. Now that we’ve established my imminent demise…

“Soon as I can, Gran. Maybe when I finish this contract. September, maybe.”

“You’ll stay here? I can take the sofa. When do you think you’ll arrive? My friends all want to see you again. You remember Mrs. Tomkins? You used to play with her daughter Alice. Alice is single, you know. She has a good job, too—working at an insurance company. Maybe she can get you a better health plan.”

“I don’t know, Gran. I’ll try to come back after I finish my contract, but I can’t tell what’ll be happening then. I’ll let you know, OK?”

“Oh, Art. Please come back soon—I miss you. I’m going to visit your mother’s grave today and put some flowers on it. They keep it very nice at Mount Pleasant, and the trees are just blooming now.”

“I’ll come back as soon as I can, Gran. I love you.”

“I love you too, Arthur.”

“Bye, Gran.”

“I’ll call you once I speak to Betty about the chiropractor, all right?”

“All right, Gran.” He is going to have to go to the chiropractor now, even though his back feels as good as it has in years. His Gran will be checking up on it.

“Bye, Arthur. I love you.”

“Bye, Gran.”


He shakes his head and holsters the comm back in his pants, then rocks back and lies down on the rug, facing the ceiling, eyes closed. A moment later, the hem of Linda’s robe brushes his arm and she lies down next to him, takes his hand.

“Everything OK?”

“It’s just my Gran.” And he tells her about this date’s significance.

“How did she die?”

“It was stupid. She slipped in the tub and cracked her skull on the tap. I was off at a friend’s place for the weekend and no one found her for two days. She lived for a week on life support, and they pulled the plug. No brain activity. They wouldn’t let me into the hospital room after the first day. My Gran practically moved in, though. She raised me after that. I think that if she hadn’t had to take care of me, she would have just given up, you know? She’s pretty lonely back home alone.”

“What about your dad?”

“You know, there used to be a big mystery about that. Gran and Mom, they were always tragic and secretive when I asked them about him. I had lots of stories to explain his absence: ran off with another woman, thrown in jail for running guns, murdered in a bar fight. I used to be a bit of a celeb at school—lots of kids didn’t have dads around, but they all knew where their fathers were. We could always kill an afternoon making up his who and where and why. Even the teachers got into it, getting all apologetic when we had to do a genealogy project. I found out the truth, finally, when I was nineteen. Just looked it up online. It never occurred to me that my mom would be that secretive about something that was so easy to find out, so I never bothered.”

“So, what happened to him?”

“Oh, you know. He and mom split when I was a kid. He moved back in with his folks in a little town in the Thousand Islands, near Ottawa. Four or five years later, he got a job planting trees for a summer up north, and he drowned swimming in a lake during a party. By the time I found out about him, his folks were dead, too.”

“Did you tell your friends about him, once you found out?”

“Oh, by then I’d lost touch with most of them. After elementary school, we moved across town, to a condo my grandmother retired into on the lakeshore, out in the suburbs. In high school, I didn’t really chum around much, so there wasn’t anyone to talk to. I did tell my Gran though, asked her why it was such a big secret, and she said it wasn’t, she said she’d told me years before, but she hadn’t. I think that she and Mom just decided to wait until I was older before telling me, and then after my mom died, she just forgot that she hadn’t told me. We got into a big fight over that.”

“That’s a weird story, dude. So, do you think of yourself as an orphan?”

Art rolls over on his side, face inches from hers, and snorts a laugh. “God, that’s so—Dickensian. No one ever asked me that before. I don’t think so. You can’t really be an adult and be an orphan—you’re just someone with dead parents. And I didn’t find out about my dad until I was older, so I always figured that he was alive and well somewhere. What about your folks?”

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)