Short Stories

To Catch the Sun

Grandma’s death was a long, drawn out affair, and rather violent by the end.

“Damn you!” She’d scream. “If I could move I’d smite you down to hell, Devil!” She clocked me a couple times when I would move her around the house, just me and no one else. Thankfully, her strength was locked at the lowest setting.

I didn’t cry during her last moments. Minutes I should say, really long minutes. A month before she died, she lashed at anybody, so we turned off her mechanical limbs. On judgment day, the old gal determined to torment us with her dying breath. The whole family listened as Grandma’s lengthy death rattle roiled from her titanium lungs.

Auntie Caroline had warned us that the Beast breathed within Grandma since her augmentation. “Better the Devil reside in a robot than in my momma,” she said when the doctor recommended replacing eighty percent of her body with prosthetics. They called it, “Transference.”

“Shut it, Caroline,” Grandma said back then, “you and your Devil. I’ll spit him up and use him as elbow grease.” That woman loved living. We’d sold the androids she owned to save her. She was worth three of them anyways, before and after the surgery.

Today, I offered to clean her house. I opened up the pantry, where she stored rows and rows of canned foods she had prepared for hurricane season. The shelves were packed with strawberry jam, canned pineapple, canned yams, beans, chicken soup, hamburger helper, and clam chowder.

God that woman loved clam chowder. I pulled one out, thinking I’d make some the way she showed me, with lemon juice and a garnish of bay leaves. But as soon as I put can to opener, the stupid thing broke, and my heart bubbled up and spilled out. My legs shook. I dropped one thing and threw the other. That’s the most I exerted through the whole ordeal.

I’d grown sick of wakes and funerals. At hers, no one saw so much as a sob from me. It might’ve been helpful to the rest of the family, to share in that spectacle and solidarity. Uncle Lennox accused me of never loving her. I kept my face stone-still the whole time, bearing his rage and spittle like dew in the morning while they dragged him away. Uncle Len was close to grandma. But not as close as me. I let him have his catharsis, the one and only stage of grief.

I lay bawling on the kitchen floor amidst a pile of broken pieces and clutched the leaking can. It carried the pungent, fishy scent of the ocean throughout the kitchen, the same ocean we’d drive an hour to every morning to play and pray.

My grandmother grew up on a farm in the boonies. Even though they owned an android to work around the clock, she always rose with the sun. I inherited that. I guess it’s one of those genes that skip a generation. We’d drive to the beach at sunrise, just the two of us and no one else. We’d wade waist-deep into the cold water, lift our hands to the sun and try to catch it, and bring whatever bounty it offered home with us.

I used to hate those days, where we had to share it with all the boats, drones, solar panels, and robots. The beach still reminds me of her, but not the natural parts of it. I wish we could’ve spread her ashes in the water, but honestly, there just wasn’t enough of her left.

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