Monday, July 6, 2009

Grandma Graffiti, 1 of 8

Dear gentle readers: this July I am participating in Declaration Editing's Super Short Summer Serial Contest (S4C). While everyone I know goes on breezy cool vacations, I will be here in Portland, so I thought I'd make good use (or, use, at least) of the month. This will not be my finest work, and will mostly be produced between the hours of 6 and 8 AM (because I have a job) and written the day of each serial's deadline, Monday's and Wednesday's (because I am lazy). And, I had to look up "serial story" because I only understood it to be something Chekhov did to milk a story for all its I think I get it now. You'll know if I don't. And, finally, I dedicate this story, in its sure-to-be fluxuating instances of success and failure, to Kristy, because she emails and yells if I don't post, and doesn't take "I'm lazy" for an answer.


She was two blocks away from Safeway before she realized she’d been stabbed. It was an event that would later be replayed on the evening news, and even three years later on America’s Most Amazing Crime Stories: grainy, silent footage of a grocery story robbery. The cashier and shoppers cowered and raised their hands above their head. In the moments leading up to the robbery she hands her check to a nameless cashier, who accepts it and turns toward the register. A flat looking teenager – whose only description anyone can recall later will be his loose tank top looped around his narrow shoulder and arm pits like stretched taffy – debuts in the upper left corner of the surveillance tape, pushing past four protesting customers. She was returning her wallet to her purse when he appeared behind her, wrapping her in a rough bear hug and demanding that everyone give him what he asked for, or the old lady gets it.

Afterward, with the police, she could only articulate the loud buzzing in her ear. Realizing she was useless, and with plenty of opinionated Safeway customers lined up to tell their versions of the story, they gave her the nod - she was free to go. She slowly gathered up her groceries that had spilled during the attack. Retrieving an apple that had rolled across the floor and under the lotto machine, she grimaced.

She shuffled down 82nd with her bag. Cars and buses flashed past, unrelenting. The late-afternoon heat danced above the sidewalk, and she struggled to take off her sweater. Two young boys snorted and sighed, impatient for her to move. She leaned over and folded her sweater, putting it atop her bag of groceries. One of the boy’s eyes widened and he hit his friend’s arm.

“Lady, lady…what the fuck’s in your back? Oh my gawd.”

Her heart started to beat faster, unsure of the boy’s motives. She leaned over intent on picking up her groceries and moving on but felt a blinding pain – and the buzzing intensified. The fall forward and two stinging scrapped knees was the last thing she recalled.

Later at the hospital she learned that during the robbery she had indeed been stabbed between her shoulders with a small butterfly blade. Despite the pain, she refused to make a fuss when her lower back started to swell and pulse as if angered. The cut had measured 2 and 1/2 inches deep, and only became visible when she had removed her loose sweater and turned her back to the delinquents on the street.

Her noisy and partially deaf hospital mate ran the local news channel day and night, and she found herself being pulled into a multi-day breaking news story about a graffiti epidemic that had swept Portland that summer. Gangs of faceless teenagers -- motherless or with a deficit of role models in their lives -- were to blame, the ageless blond newscaster reported from the field (the alley-side of a Plaid Pantry on SE Morrison and 12th), her voice carrying the confidence of the news channel's careful, in-depth research. The grandma slowly chewed on one of the peppermint taffy treats her daughter-in-law had brought her from the family's recent trip to the coast. She chewed, and considered this.



Anonymous said...

Yes! Love the grimacing at the apple, which rolled under the Lotto machine. Excellent.

Also, the buzzing being nearly her entire experience of the event - very nice.

More story! Counting the hours until tomorrow's installment. Until then, there will be a little old lady sitting upright in a hospital cot at the back of my head, contemplating the evening news...

Kristy (Seriously, Blogger, you cleared the comment form because I didn't want to post through my Gmail account? Bad form, Blogger, and I expect more from Google products! Sticky forms, damn you!)

janet said...

I have been waiting a long time to hear how this story will come out!