Prose: Alireza Taheri Araghi
Gramma was eighty-seven. It was a week Gramma was dead.
When the doctor was examining Gramma, I was peeping through the keyhole. He pulled Gramma’s skin-and-bone hand out from under the blanket and took her pulse as he was staring at the ceiling. Then he placed her hand back under the blanket. He closed his eyes and shook his head, meaning that she was gone, and started to pack his things. His green eyes were so beautiful, bastard! When he closed his bag I ran back to the sofa and picked up the remote. They came out of the room; mom and the doctor. He had a pot belly but a couple of sit-ups would take care of that.
“You mean you can’t you do anything, doctor?”
“I’m sorry, but it’s a week she’s gone.”
Mom closed the door. “Go feed Gramma,” she told me. Gramma’s food was soup juice; soup passed through a fine sieve so there would be nothing solid in it.
I went into Gramma’s room. She was on bed, leaning against the pillows like a crumpled newspaper. “Arash!” she said.
“It’s me Gramma.” I set the tray on the small table by the bed and sat down on the floor.
“It’s me Gramma. It’s me Azi, Azi.”
She raised her hand slowly and rubbed the length of her finger on her wrinkled throat and raised her eyebrows as if asking a question.
“Yeah, yeah. It’s a week or so. Now come on, drink this soup quick. Come on.”
Gramma was eighty-seven and it was a week she was dead.
“See what she wants?”
I turned back and looked at Gramma. She was shaking the loose belt with her thumb. She was too thin to fit in there. She was sitting hunched in the back seat looking at me with raised eyebrows.
“What does she say?”
“Her belt is loose. She’s afraid.”
The wind blew in from the window and my hair flew away. Gramma was huddling like a dog with a cold. “Arash!” she said.
“Afraid? What’s she afraid of? What can a dead old woman be afraid of?”
“How should I know? Just don’t say it in front of her.”
“Who the hell is this Arash anyway?”
“Go a bit slower. No one special. It was her first son. Died of malt fever or something at twelve. Never mind. Where do we go?” I wanted him to hold my hand.
“Look, I think she needs something again.”
I turned around. Gramma was again waving the belt to show me it was loose. “Oh, come on! Nothing’s going to happen, Gramma. This will hold you. Now I’ll tell him to go slower, OK? Don’t worry. Kaveh, slow it down, will you? If she craps her pants, we’ll be in shit.”
“What the heck did you bring her for?”
“I told you, no one else can feed her. She doesn’t eat from anyone’s hand.”
I stretched my arm out of the window and cupped my hand in the wind. Kaveh lit a cigarette. He had a hand on the wheel and an elbow stuck out of the window. He blew the smoke out. The highway was not crowded. The sky was orange from the rays of the sun setting behind houses. A tall glass building reflected strange waving shapes in its windows. Kaveh looked in the mirror.
“Look, she wants something again.”
I turned back. Gramma was hugging my shoulder bag. “What?” I asked. She slowly raised her hand, rubbed her forefinger on her throat and raised her eyebrows.
“Yes, damn it, yes. It’s a week. Just drop it.” I turned around and crossed my arms on my chest. “Where the hell do we go then?”
He blew the smoke out. He was wearing those baggy pants again. I had told him I didn’t like them. Why wouldn’t he answer me? Was he ever going to wash the car?
He crushed the cigarette in the ashtray. “We’re going somewhere cool?”
In the roller coaster line, Gramma was in front of me and Kaveh behind me. A strobe light threw colorful patches of lights at our faces. Gramma was clutching her cotton candy stick. I placed my hand on her hunched back. She didn’t turn to look at me. When she was alive she would always turn back with a smile to see who wanted to talk to her. The train swooped down from above and passed by with a scream. Kaveh threw his arms around me. “This is going to rock,” he whispered in my ear. “You’re sure she can take it?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’ll ask her again.” Then I said in Gramma’s ear, “It goes too fast Gramma. Do you want to try the merry-go-round?” She turned back with begging in her eyes, and grabbed my sleeve. “All right, all right. We’re riding it… I don’t want cotton candy. You’re bribing me? No, I don’t like cotton candy. OK. Look we’re in the line, OK.”
I held her shoulders and turned her around. Two kids ran by with balloons in their hands. The train screamed past us again.
“What’s the matter?” Kaveh said in my ear. “You OK, Azi? Anything wrong?”
“Yeah… I miss my Gramma.” suddenly I was missing my Gramma. I wrapped my arms around her and rested my chin on her shoulder.
There was no reaction. She was just clutching her cotton candy stick. “Arash! Arash!” she said with her head bowed down.
At the ticket booth Gramma stared at the clerk with a smile. The man took the money and glanced at her. He slipped us the tickets and took another look at the three of us. What are you looking at, you fag!
Kaveh got on and sat next to a middle-aged man who seemed too busy for this tomfoolery. I sat behind the important man, beside Gramma. There was a man and a woman who checked all the seats to make sure everything was all right. The man said Gramma couldn’t ride with the cotton candy. She didn’t say anything when he took it from her. I craned my neck and saw the man was looking around with his hands on his thighs, as if he was waiting for an end to this farce so he could go and take care of his unfinished business. Kaveh turned around and winked. I looked at Gramma. She was waving the loose belt with her thumb. Her eyebrows were raised again and her eyes turned, begging.
“Don’t worry Gramma. Hold onto this pole tight.” I took her hands and placed them on the pole on the back of the seat in front of her.
The train started off. Slowly. The tracks sloped up. We were going up slowly. “Yahoooo!” Kaveh shouted throwing up both his arms. Gramma was pressed against the back of the seat, holding the pole tight with both hands. Her belt hung loose. She had on the purple dress with big red flowers I had bought her on her birthday. Now that she had gotten this thin the dress was too much for her. We were reaching the top. We were then going to pour down. I wished I could slap the man in front of me on the head. Why did Mom send this dead old woman with me? Don’t I need to have some fun some times? I wanted to sit beside Kaveh, hold his hands and scream. We were just about to reach the top. What if something happens to Gramma? What if her belt is really too loose? For a moment I looked down and saw, Oh my God, Gramma had taken off her shoes and left them at her feet. My white sneakers. My white sneakers. Now they were sure going to fall down when the train did a loop. We were almost at the top. I was tired. I didn’t want to think. I wanted to enjoy my fall. I closed my eyes.