The nursing home’s oppressive fake heat makes me feel more candle than human, trapped in a torture chamber of shrinking pink doilies and wilting flower baskets.
“It’s so cold, honey,” my 97-year-old Grandma Ann says, pulling her fluffy robe tight as the skin melts off our faces.
“You lived in Miami for so long that you must like the heat, huh?” my husband asks.
Grandma Ann shakes her head. “Oh, honey, summer there was like livin’ in someone’s mouth. Plus, my first husband lived there. It was terrible. But you two are such a cute couple. Are you going to have children?”
“Um.” My sweat droplets spawn little sweatlings as I brace myself to tell her she won’t be regaling great-grandchildren with tales of my grandpa’s back hair anytime soon. “Well… Probably not…”
“Good. Children are too much work.” She waves a hand, as if swatting away a toddler.
Grasping for topics unrelated to baby-making, I glance around the room, over the stacks of romance novels featuring chiseled, well-oiled men on the covers beneath titles like Prairie Embrace and The Firefighter Daddy. Nope, not touching that.
I nod toward the papers on her bedside table. “Is this the sheet music for your organ?”
She grins. “Sure is. I have my own special editing process.”
I flip through the pages. With her self-assured pencil marks, a song called “Old Dog Tray” has become “Old Cat Tray.” “Hard Times Come Again No More” is now “Good Times Come Again No More.” And, baffled by the mysterious inner workings of a true artist, I see that “Auld Lang Syne” has been crossed off entirely, replaced by “Old Dang Sine.”
“Have you had the chance to play?” I ask.
“I’ve tried, but the neighbors keep complainin’ about the noise!” she grumbles. “They don’t like God’s music, and they’re going to straight to Hell, you know.”
I splutter a laugh, and her eyes twinkle with mischief. When I turn to my husband, a glazed look coats his sweaty face. He’s already roasted. I didn’t save him in time.
As I drag my beloved’s nearly unconscious body out of the room, I leave Grandma Ann with a kiss or 20. In that moment, I look forward to old age — to the days when I’ll feel no shame in reading dime-store erotica, cooking my family members and playing the organ loud enough to wake the neighbors.
— Diane Callahan
Diane Callahan enjoys thinking about writing short stories, novels and poems. She hosts a YouTube channel called Quotidian Writer, providing advice to those who also aspire to think about actually writing. You can devour her work in Defenestration Humor Magazine, Mrs. Latimer Had a Fat Cat, Riddled with Arrows, Short Édition and Translunar Travelers Lounge, among others.