Saturday, October 29, 2011

Grand D

She remembered how Grand D would keep his big hand wrapped around the remaining deck while he carefully considered the solitaire tableau before him. He played deliberately, breathing in a way that she could hear him from the other side of the room where she sat on the round hooked rug, playing with her paper dolls.

"Hmph," she would hear him say before dealing out the next three cards in a careful fan. His blue sweater smelled like mothballs when she went over to kiss him goodnight, Grandmother holding tightly to her hand as she guided her over to his side. "Well, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite." He didn't smile big because he didn't have his teeth in.

He cheated. He would shuffle the deck when he wasn't winning. She didn't know it was cheating then, only later after he was gone.

But she remembered.

Her pink pajamas were soft and smelled like the sunshine and the salty air coming up from the ocean. She had seen them hanging out on the line that day. There was sand in her bed and Grandmother swept her hand across the sheets once, twice and three times. But she could still feel a little down below her toes when she stretched her leg all the way out.

She went to sleep smelling the cigar smoke that drifted in her window. Grand D always smoked a cigar at night, sitting out on the screened in porch with his glass of brandy. His best customers sent him boxes of cigars when a deal went well. She never got tired of watching him open the boxes. He always looked so excited. Watching him made her dance a little with her own excitement.

Mama woke her up when they came in from the dance. "Alice, dear, we're back. I wanted to give you a kiss." Then Papa came in too. "Let the girl sleep, dear." And then she was asleep again. Maybe she just dreamed it?

In the morning there was oatmeal that Grand D had soaked in milk overnight. It was creamy with big, plumped raisins. Grandmother added a little brown sugar. "Do you want to go swimming today, Alice?" But she didn't. She wanted to play with her paper dolls. How beautiful they were! There were costumes for fancy parties and hats to match. There were play clothes and different shoes. She talked for the dolls, walking them through different scenes, each with a little something that was scary, from which the dolls would always be rescued.

At nap time, Grand D read her a story about a blue balloon and its travels across the world. Alice dreamed about Africa, with its wild animals. But she wasn't frightened. In her dream, she rode a lion and talked with zebras and the zebras talked right back. Grand D told the story so well it was alive in her dream.

Now Grand D was gone, but she remembered.

She remembered.

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