To Harvest Ruins, part one

by Shaun Terry

Statuettes, all facing the street, littered the perfectly manicured yard. In the drive sat a shiny, spotless black-and-chrome Cadillac.

In the open garage, the old man with his snow-white hair stood: stoic, waiting. Each year, his head has lost a little more color until it had none more to give. Blonde hair doesn’t turn grey; the color simply bleeds away until it goes from straw to something you might expect to see on a lab mouse. “Come on in! Grandma just made you food.”

He was smaller than I’d ever seen him. He’d always stood about 6’2″, with a broad chest and only a slight belly, and been as much legend as man. He’d accomplished a lot in his life and done just what he’d set out to do. He could tell stories of how his pride had led him to extraordinary victories. He’d been a protomale in so many ways: stern, strong, and masculine. But now, despite sturdy, erect posture, his age betrayed him, bringing him down to the humbler height of average men. His build was slight, his face had sunken into itself. He was no longer imposing; he was shrunken and withering.

He said that he’d recently lost fifteen pounds. “On purpose,” he explained. He was used to being proud and unabashed in voicing his opinions.

I lined my boots up with the neat rows of shoes, near the door from the garage into the house, before I stepped inside. It smelled like rich food and subtly sweet cleaning chemicals. The carpet leading down the hall to the living room was protected by a thick plastic cover that ran the length of the hall, as though it were customized.

Had grandma had it specially made? Had she measured the hall and gone to the hall-length plastic runner store to pick out the perfect one? How much energy and time had she spent to find such a thing?

Along the walls and on each shelf and small table were photos of dozens of family members from four generations. Grandma sat in a little pile of geriatric woman on the floor of the room that had been allocated to her for soap operas and sewing and doing whatever-the-fuck-else old, near-deaf women do.

“Oh! Hugo!”

She labored to stand, morphing in slow-motion, becoming a tiny standing geriatric woman. I reached my hand out for her to prop up against. Her eyes looked up at me from about the height of the middle of my chest, and she smiled a big, innocent grin at me.

She kissed me on the mouth because she always kisses me on the mouth, and I don’t mind it even a little. She kisses sweetly and earnestly, with a love so soft that no one could mistake it for something selfish or something with an agenda. She asked how I was doing, so we had some inane conversation that we’d had a hundred times before, but I didn’t mind having it.

I didn’t yell at her, even though everyone else does. I can’t help but feel that, though she might not express it, maybe she doesn’t really like being constantly yelled at. I’d just rather she’d ask me to repeat myself and make me yell than to start out yelling at her. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know proper etiquette when it comes to deteriorating piles of octogenaric, nearly-deaf humans. Maybe I should ask Abby or some shit. To be honest, I do talk more loudly to her than would be appropriate at a Carrabba’s or something.

My grandmother makes me feel warm. Even in old age, she works hard  to keep the house clean for her big, goofy husband. She cooks immaculate, delicious food that makes you feel taken care of and she holds your hand and massages it a little as she asks you about your life. And even if she’s telling you that you don’t call enough, you look into the giant chocolate marbles for eyes and you know that she’s just a sensitive old woman who’s always kept things simple. All she ever wanted was to be as good as she could to the people she loves. She shows you that she loves you while she’s scolding you, scowling at you. The hills and ravines in the small, old, eroded face twist at a curious, discontented angle, but she has enough love in her eyes for five people. And she’s dying. It’s stupid and it pisses me off, to be honest.

The little Yoda-like woman drags me to the kitchen and starts pulling food from every crevice of the kitchen, like a horror film’s antagonist if the slasher were to live a life of cooking and cleaning and organizing and cuddling. Somehow, this little hunched sack of wrinkles and cinnamon-grins makes food appear at a magical pace, despite her moving slowly enough that the tortoise might be tempted to bet on itself.

part two