It’s the second half of the Ray Bradbury Challenge of writing a short story each week for a year. This is story 36 of 52. Sorry for two on this Sunday, but one should have been posted on Wednesday.
I am finding that this story challenge is getting in the way of my novel writing, so to get to 52 faster, I am going to compress the challenge and attempt to write 2 stories a week, with the goal of getting all 52 done by the end of October.
Someone with an obsession
Confesses a terrible secret
I’m told that one of the symptoms of adulthood is when there are things you really don’t want to do, you do them anyway. Not because they are fun, enlightening, or anything positive. Which is how I felt about visiting my grandmother in her nursing home.
Grandma used to be someone fun; someone I loved to spend time with, baking, cooking, and making crocheted throw rugs. The usual things you do with a grandma. But two strokes later, she was in a place where her medical needs could be better cared for, and my mom could go back to her teaching job.
But this week, since I had the week off, I took one for the team and went to the nursing home to sit with grandma. It was clear to me, it wasn’t the stroke that changed grandma, it was the 24-7 televisions in the recreation room and most of the patient room. All of them were turned to the Fox News channel.
News is a loose term here. While most people and companies had biases, this channel celebrated their biases and their close relationship with the 45th president.
When I got to the nursing home, she was in the recreation room, playing solitaire with a set of Trump Casino playing cards. I had no idea how old the cards were nor where grandma had gotten them. She was focused on her game, televisions in the background blaring the latest presidential polling. There were a couple of men on the side watching the TV and commenting that the talking heads were wrong.
No matter what day or what time of day I came, the place always smelled of sour milk and urine. The floor was glossy, and tables and chairs all seemed to be clean, which meant it was probably the residents themselves who were the source of the odors.
I pulled out a chair and sat at the table with my grandmother. “Hi Gran, how are you doing today?”
She pulled a card off the deck, considered it, then looked at me. “Your mother hasn’t been by in a week.”
“They told you, Gran, school started and then she got covid. She will be here as soon as she can test negative.”
“She just needs to take that drug they are talking about, ivermectin.” Gran placed a two on top of an ace. “I keep telling her she is getting bad information, what with those dangerous vaccines, and suffocating masks.”
I could only nod. This was not a good time to remind Gran she herself had the two vaccines and the booster, requirements for living in this facility. “She said she loves you and misses you. She will call after dinner.”
Gran pulled another card off the deck. “Have you voted yet? It’s really important that everyone vote this year. Otherwise, those people will try to steal the election. The president called into the show this morning to remind us. The left is going to stuff those ballot drop-off boxes and mail in multiple ballots. They are going to steal the election, I just know it.”
This was going to be a long visit. “Gran, no one is going to steal the election. They just want to make sure that everyone has a chance to vote. With the pandemic, it’s safer for people to vote by mail or drop-off box. There are ways to make sure that each person gets only one vote.
I looked around the room. “I heard that you won big at bingo this week?”
“Your mom told you? Yes, I won a manicure and a pedicure.” She waved her freshly painted fingernails. “I am not using the pedicure, I hate people touching my feet.”
“That is your call, Gran.” What else to talk about?” “How is Mr. Rydell? Are you two still having dinner together?”
“That commie? No, I can’t talk to anyone who thinks our president was installed by the Russians. Trump is the only thing standing between us and Putin, you know?”
Deep breath. I wanted to pull out my phone, to check the time. And maybe see if there was a yin yoga class nearby for after this visit. I needed something.
“He seemed very nice–”
“He was supporting Biden! How could I have dinner with someone who wasn’t a patriot.”
My mother came here every day before her bout with covid. I was starting to wonder how to nominate her for sainthood. I mean, both my parents were republicans in 2016, but by now, they called themselves independents. My dad said he was a Marine. He knew a clear and present danger when he saw one. Only Gran remained committed to this president. And it was a full-out obsession. Her favorite Christmas gift last year was a lifesize cardboard cutout of the man, red tie and thumbs up.
Gran took the last card and put a queen on a jack. “See, here is my sign, ever since I got these Trump cards, I win at solitaire every time.”
I held my tongue. My bet was that ever since she got those Trump cards, she found better ways to cheat.
She looked at me. “You never answered my question. Did you vote?”
“Yes, Gran. I did early voting last week.” I hoped she wouldn’t ask who I voted for, but that was pretty pointless.
“Good, our president will be glad to have your support.”
“Um, thanks Gran.” Whew, dodged that one.
“One of the gentlemen over there, Mr. Long, has those mail-in ballots. You can get some from him and send them in, just to make sure your vote is counted.”
“Gran, you only get one vote! I can’t mail in a vote after I cast a ballot.”
“Sure you can, that is what Biden’s people are doing. It’s only fair. Everyone here has done more than one, to make sure it counts. I did about fifty myself. “
“Gran! You’re kidding, right? You didn’t just confess to 49 counts of voter fraud, did you?”
“No, I was teaching my granddaughter how to ensure her vote was counted, since her parents couldn’t be bothered.”
“Gran, I know exactly how to make sure my vote is counted. I work for the Texas Secretary of States office. “
My mother threatened to cut me out of her will. But dad told me it was an idle threat, as the judge went easy on Gran. Especially as she was in mourning for she believed to be the death of America.