Love, Life, and the List(5)

By: Kasie West


“Funny, Grandpa.”

“Your grandma used to think I was funny. No woman has found me as funny since. It’s a tragedy.”

“Her death or that no one has found you funny since?”

“Oh, a wise guy, huh?”

My grandma had died from cancer three months before I was born, so it was literally a lifetime ago. Not knowing her made it so I couldn’t really miss her. But I knew my grandpa did, even when he joked about it. Grandpa had moved in with us after she died.

“Do you want some oatmeal?” I asked Grandpa, holding out my bowl, which I hadn’t eaten from yet.

“No, I want something with lots of sugar in it.”

“I’m sure this has plenty of sugar. It’s two cinnamon-and-spice packs.”

“But it’s masquerading as healthy, and I can’t forgive it for that.” He got himself a bowl and a box of cereal from the pantry.

“Grandpa, how did you live to eighty when you eat so bad?”

“I am not eighty. Why do you always insist on adding years to my life? It’s like you’re trying to get rid of me.”

I retrieved a spoon from the drawer and sat at the table. I pulled my bare feet up under me and took a big bite, then immediately regretted it, because my tongue was on fire. I sucked air into my mouth.

“That’s instant karma right there,” Grandpa said.

“You’re mean,” I mumbled through my mouthful.

My mom joined us. “Our house is spider free.”

“Did you spend the morning killing spiders?” Grandpa asked.

“No, hunting spiders,” I said. “Internet spiders.”

She put her hunting gear on the counter.

Grandpa sighed. “You need to stop reading stories on the internet.”

She ignored his statement. “What are we eating?” She peered into my bowl and then my grandpa’s.

“Oatmeal,” I said.

She raised her eyebrows at Grandpa. “That isn’t oatmeal.”

“I didn’t say it was. Your daughter is eating oatmeal. I have Cocoa Krispies.”

“Dad.”

“What?”

“That’s too much sugar for a prediabetic.”

“Well, when you feel like going to the store to stock up our shelves with acceptable items, let me know.”

The smile fell from her face. My mom hated going to the store. She hated going anywhere outside of her comfort zone. Especially when my dad was gone, like now, deployed to the Middle East until the end of August. Eleven more weeks. We could handle eleven more weeks. My mom was always a lot better when he was around. It hadn’t always been like that. She used to have a tight community of military wives at each place we moved (five different cities between my first year of school and my seventh), who seemed to help her transition better. But four years ago she decided she wanted me to have more stability, so when we moved to the central coast of California, we bought a house away from military housing, and she declared it our permanent home. I was so happy. For the first time, I had friends I knew I wouldn’t have to leave. But my mom seemed to struggle. More every day.

“Right. The store.” Mom disappeared into the pantry and I shot my grandpa a look.

“What?” he asked.

“Mean,” I whispered. Then I called out to her, “When does Dad get to video chat with us again?” We’d just talked to him last week, so I probably shouldn’t have asked. It would only make her more upset. But when my mom started obsessing over internet stories and rarely going out, I always thought of my dad and how I wished he wouldn’t leave so much. I knew if he had a choice he wouldn’t, but it was easy to blame the person not here.

“Probably in a few weeks,” she said, coming out with a box of shredded wheat. She set it on the table, then took a clean bowl out of the cupboard and rinsed it thoroughly under steaming-hot water. “What’s on the agenda today?”

“Not much,” I said. “I’m scheduled to work at the museum. Mr. Wallace has me cleaning the storage room. You should see it. It’s a nightmare. Almost like a bunch of creative people are in charge of it.”

“Is Mr. Wallace going to let you display your paintings in the July showcase?”

I bit my lip to contain my smile. I’d finally gotten all my pieces organized, copied, and put into a portfolio that I was going to show him. “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”

Mom kissed the top of my head. “How could he say no? You are so talented.”

“Did you include my favorite piece?” Grandpa asked. “The flower fields?”

“I did.”

“Then you’re golden,” Grandpa said.

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