Grace (a short story)

Grace remembers it well. It’s one of the few things she remembers. Her mother used to put a drop of brandy in her sister’s bottle to help her sleep. She no doubt did the same thing for Grace, and why wouldn’t she? In that dusty room, in that falling-down old house, the walls covered in grime and soot from the Franklins’ fire downstairs. Her mother had tried to give them both the best life she could, Grace can see that now.

She still remembers how the men would shout and sing when they arrived into the house after the pubs had closed. How her father would slowly ascend the stairs and weave into their room: later than he had told his wife he would be, unsteady on his feet. How he would collapse on the table or bed or settee – whichever he reached first – singing still, if he was in a good mood. There were many times he wasn’t in such a good mood, Grace remembers that too.

Raised voices and bickering, usually over money. Her mother’s tears later, when she had shouted at her husband about how she had needed it for shopping. For groceries. For food and clothes and occasional treats for the little one: not much, just a biscuit, maybe, or something to soothe her when the colic became too painful.

A rattle. Grace and Grace’s sister had both had use of a little rattle their mother made for them, with a bear charm attached to it that her mother had gotten from a friend who passed away. Laura. Or was it Louisa? Lucia? Grace can’t remember now.

But she thinks of these things sometimes. Funny. Now that she’s in the nursing home, she has nothing to do but think. Oh, James visits her, of course – she thinks he’s called James, but doesn’t let on that she isn’t sure – with his wife and kids and their howling brood. The older ones usually have their noses in their iPhones. They have nothing to say to her. And why would they, Grace supposes? She is from a different world: a different planet to them, she might as well be, with technology having come as far as it has since her own childhood.

All different to when she was a girl. Things aren’t the same. She closes her eyes and pretends to be asleep, sometimes, when the modern world gets too much for her and she just doesn’t want to speak to anyone.

They would never approve of giving brandy to the kids nowadays, of course. James, that is (she thinks that’s what he’s called – God help her, he’s her own grandson and she doesn’t know his name). And his wife – what’s her name? Mathilde or Grunhilde or something. Something European, anyway.

She doesn’t know. She knows less and less about anything these days, and she was warned that things would be this way: her memories would fade. The disease would take them.

But she remembers her mother with greater and greater clarity. Sees her calling out “Grace” in her dreams, drawing her ever closer…

It will not be long now.

Image: George Hodan


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