Friday, February 27, 2009


Annabeth's grandfather stepped off a number 146 bus half a car-length from where she stood and didn't so much as acknowledge her existence.  She stood with her hands in her pockets and her headphones in her ears and watched him look around the bus stop twice and then lumber off up the block.  The clothes he wore were unfamiliar and his step looked more uncertain than she remembered, but his hair was still dark, with only a salting of gray, and his enormous glasses were just the same.

He disappeared around the corner as Annabeth's bus arrived, and she hesitated just long enough to be elbowed out of position by a woman who looked like a nine-to-five hooker and smelled of vanilla.  

On the bus ride home Annabeth looked back at the woman's cheetah print jacket and remembered going to the Iowa Symphony Orchestra surrounded by fur-coated Great-Aunts who fed her sticky lavender candy and bitter soda at the intermission.  Her grandfather had slapped their hands when he saw the candy and made a guttural growling noise that she later found out meant he needed a cigar.

Annabeth wondered if she should call her mother when she returned home and tell her that her ex-husband's father had wandered from his southern Iowa nursing home as far northeast as the shores of Lake Michigan, but she imagined there would be no response to that news but silence, and so she kept her peace as well.  If she had her ex-stepfather's phone number, she might consider calling him herself, but Danny had long ago fallen off the grid somewhere in the hills of Ohio, and besides he had rarely appreciated the mingling of his family with Annabeth, even when she was only twelve and newly fatherless for the third time.

She thought now she ought to have gone after her grandfather, just to see if he was going to a night job as a janitor in a high rise like the one where she worked.  She guessed he would not recognize her and imagined she could shadow him to see if he still kept used tissues in his sleeves like the Italian mob ladies in the movies.  

The more Annabeth thought of her grandfather, however, the faster the bus went, until the cord between them snapped again, and she thought only of violets.  


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