Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Richard Jay Goldstein
My mother died a few years ago, in a strange and untimely manner. Her name was June. I'm pretty sure she wasn't ready to go. She was eighty-two, but she was living a busy, independent life, driving, going out, having parties — a very merry widow, still beautiful and elegant in every way.
What happened was that June came home from dinner out with friends one evening, drove into her garage, shut the garage door, and hurried into the house. Probably she had to pee. Somehow, for some reason, she left the car running. The car ran there in the garage until it ran out of gas. Carbon monoxide seeped under and around the door into the house and killed her while she slept. She died before my granddaughters Fiona and Chloe were born, but they would have loved each other.
Four-year-old Fiona comes over one morning to spend some time with me. My wife Polly is out of town and Fiona and I have planned a busy day of eating and playing.
I'm making a snack. Fiona has her own drawer in the kitchen, where she keeps some toys, including an old cell phone. She's playing with the phone, pretending she's talking to her mom.
"Hi, Mom," she says into the phone. "Yes, I'm fine. Okay, I'll see you soon. Bye." Then she says to me,"Umpa, why don't you call your Mom?" She calls me Umpa, short for Grumpa.
"I can't," I say.
"Why not?" Fiona asks.
"Well, because she died."
"You can pretend," says Fiona. "That's what I do." And she hands me the phone. "I already dialed for you," she tells me.
I take the phone. "Hi, Mom," I say into it, feeling silly.
"Tell her about me," prompts Fiona.
So I pretend to tell June about Fiona, and what a fine young lady she is, and how smart she is. And I tell June about Fiona's baby sister Chloe.
Then I tell June about our son Ambrose's work, and his wife Rebecca's work, and how proud we all are of them. I tell her how proud we are of our other son Casey, off in New York, and what a fine young man he is, and that we are all okay, and that I miss her.
I talk a long time.
"Let me talk to her," says Fiona.
She takes the phone and talks to June for a while, and tells her that she misses her too and is sorry she didn't ever get to meet her, and then she says goodbye, and hands the phone back to me. I say goodbye, and close the phone.
Fiona looks at me. "Why do you look so sad?" she asks.
"Because I miss Gramma June," I say.
"I miss her too," Fiona says, "but we talked to her, so it's all okay." And she hugs me.
Richard Jay Goldstein has been writing fiction and non-fiction for about twenty-five years. He lives with his wife and kids and grandkids — Fiona and Chloe — in the mountains east of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where it's still pretty quiet, thanks.
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