In a couple of weeks the house was set in place, a new attic and roof added thanks to retired church members in the area. Retired from farming, not church, that is.
Grandma Trudy joined every church committee and refused to consider going back to the country to tend to whatever remained of her old garden.
I won’t give you any excuse, she said, pointing a Safeway carrot at Grandpa’s head one evening just before supper. Especially after cutting off the top of my precious house. Look at this place, it’s never going to be the same. The bottom half doesn’t match the top no matter what we do. We’re the laughing stock of the whole neighbourhood. The whole neighbourhood!
This happened after Grandma found out about what was wrong with Grandpa’s head. I thought she would be nicer to him but things seemed to go even worse. She even started to call him names. Grandpa stopped smiling.
The two of us went onto the porch in the back, but he didn’t feel like talking much. The neighbour’s house was forty feet away and he said the young married couple living there had big ears for Catholics.
But Grandpa did say he was dying to get back to the country so he could clear his mind a little. Grandma wouldn’t let him. Mainly he was supposed to sit on the couch and pop aspirin. But then he started getting pains up and down his arms and he went into the hospital for observation.
He wants to see you, Grandma told me later that afternoon.
I shuffled into his room, the same one his brother had been in. Grandpa was watching TV. Watching the moon men bounce across moon fields brighter and bigger than any earthly fields Grandpa had ever seen.
Lucky bastards, he said. Look at them jump for joy and you couldn’t grow shit up there let alone cheese. Look at that flatness, look at it go on and on and on. Fields and fields of nothing but white dirt. If that’s not enough to get you to dance a jig, then I don’t know what is. I don’t.
Would you like to go to the moon? I asked politely.
Better than streets paved with gold, if you ask me.
Yeah. We both giggled. Yeah, no kidding.
He tried to drink some tea but mainly spilled it. His hand was shaking.
I helped him. I think.
He was very quiet.
I said, What?
You, he said. Angel bones.
And that was it.
The next day he was gone. Stroke.
In three days they held a wake. Upstairs in the new part of the house. The part Grandpa had always avoided since moving into town. My parents were there holding me tightly between their knees in a room full of sweaty people eating squares. Lots of low voices. Like being around a small campfire.
My mother wouldn’t, couldn’t stop crying even when her mother, my Grandma, said, all that crying is just going to dry you up for the next baby, so stop it while you’re ahead.
Minutes later, my mother decided we couldn’t stay much longer. School started for me in three days. We just had to go.
I followed my parents out, holding onto the edge of my mother’s dress, then out of the corner of my eye, I saw him, sleeping I thought, in a casket surrounded by flowers. And cattails. Some of the fluff was hanging in the air. Small clouds in a very blue room.
And then we left.
Out in front of the house, the house from the prairie was now cooling off with other ordinary houses in this small town, the heat settling around us like old bathwater. But the sky, oh, the sky was heaven. A blaze of blue, here, late in the evening, and furious orange along the edge. I stopped my parents who were holding onto my hands, one on each side, and I said, Look at that sky, look.
And they did.