issue twenty-four

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(832 words)
My voice brought my mind back from wherever it went. As loud as it could wail, it sang, "Clang, clang, clang went the trolley! Ding, ding, ding went the bell!" My body spun in an effort to help my mind locate the screaming lunatic so I could shut her the hell up.

Comprehension clicked. Body and brain realized we were all one screaming lunatic. This set our feet stumbling on the railroad tracks. We crumpled onto the dirt and cold steel rail in a confused, uncoordinated heap.

I tried to pick myself up. I don't know how long I failed at it before the flashing red and blue lights appeared, asking complicated questions about my name and where I lived.

"I live right over there." I pointed. "Behind the library."

"Young lady, the library is two miles away. That way." He pointed in the opposite direction. "How did you get out here?"

"I fell asleep. Then some weirdo was singing Judy Garland songs."

They wanted to know if I'd ingested chemicals. One of them tried blinding me with a flashlight in case this might show him the chemicals in my eyes. After they put me in the backseat of the car, they asked if my parents were home.

"Someone's parents are home." The car started, but we didn't move because ding, ding, ding went the bell that meant a train was coming. The train passing in front of us made me dizzy, so I covered one eye and watched it whiz past, feeling hypnotized by the rhythmic clacking. My mind returned to oblivion, where it stayed until morning.

Before I opened my eyes, I thought I might be dreaming of the smell of bacon and that sizzle crackle hiss pop sound it makes when the drops of grease leap out of the pan.

I found my grandfather hunched over the stove, dipping thick slices of bread in the grease.

I wanted to say something normal -- a simple, boring "good morning" -- but I knew this would be an insult. I'd lost the right to plain, banal greetings.

"Sit down." He slapped a few pieces of thick cut bacon on the bread and squirted some mustard and Worcestershire sauce on it. "I made breakfast if you think you can eat." He put another slice of bread on top and smashed it all down with his hand.

"I can eat." My voice sounded nothing like the drunken, drug-addled shrieking I'd heard on the train tracks the night before.

Our forks and knives clanked softly on plates. Grandpa cleared his throat. We chewed, slurped coffee and made tiny ting-ting sounds against the porcelain cups with our spoons. I wanted to cry, to beg for forgiveness for being worthless. I stared at the dark, tired folds of skin underneath my grandfather's eyes; the thick, silvery moustache and smooth, shiny dome that was once covered with the black hair I've only seen in photos.

I ate my greasy bacon sandwich, remembering how a smaller version of me used to crawl up in his lap with my little Barbie doll comb, wanting to groom his moustache. It was black, then. Once, he took the silly pink comb, dropped it in his shirt pocket and said, "I'm gonna hang on to this thing. It's better than mine and you'll have to come see me first when Barbie has a date."

I had a family then. Parents who weren't selfish cowards. A grandmother who loved watching musicals and sang along with every single one like she would never die.

"A damn train could've run right over you," he said, looking not at me, but at the pot of coffee sitting in the middle of the table.

My memory strained to assemble the fragments of my wandering around the railroad tracks and watching the train pass by from the backseat of the police car. As the disconnected pieces began to snap together, I wondered why I didn't die.

"I broke your dad." Grandpa rested his elbows on the table and intertwined his fingers. "I failed him -- wherever the hell he is -- and now I'm failing you."

"No, Grandpa..."

"I don't know how to fix anything." Tears welled in his eyes, rolled down the deep lines of his face. "It's too late for him, but maybe for you..."

I wished for the magic words to make his hurt stop. A spell. An incantation to make me worthy of a bacon sandwich breakfast.

"Grampy, I'm sorry, I really --"

"No. Not today." He held his hand up. "We're not doing any damn sorrys, or I-won't-do-it-agains. Just... stay home today. No going out, no partying with your jackass friends. No hiding out in your room doing God knows what."

"Okay." I nodded. "Okay."

"Then, tomorrow... I don't know." He shook his head. Cleared his throat. "Tomorrow, we'll see. Finish your breakfast."

"I want to stay home, Grampy. I do."

"I know you do." He reached across the table and patted my hand. "I know you do."


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This work is copyrighted by the author, Rasmenia Massoud. All rights reserved.
Rasmenia Massoud
End of the Line