Now Bethany had a brother and he had two children about the same time Benjamin and Dulcinea Threnody were born.  One was named Gabrielle but folks called her Gabby.  The other named Aaron.  Gabby was my grandma and I write this (in quiet to hear the one voice sane I focus on inside the other voices that tell me to fear worry and have regret) to give my time purpose so when I listened to her voice  as I remember it I can still hear it now and I know it’s a war because what’s rational in me sometimes gets my clear attention and I don’t think about what makes me afraid.  What makes me hate myself and what I came from.  What I hear in her voice—the high pitch almost a nasal whine which though it grates on my nerves lets me know where I come from and I don’t hate it—I don’t.  Even the way she says my name almost as if it’s a question the accent on the last syllablle…  Mar-cus!?

And the way she sits the way she was when she had me call upon her after she moved from Texas I fifteen then and her son my daddy moved here to East St. Louis before I was born for a job working the river and the railroad and almost out of job twice nearly when the water was down down too low for the barges to navigate and when the water was up flooding like it did in 1993 when I was five and she told me (my grandma Gabby) how her folks remembered the flood of ’27 and how it was so much worse and even songs about it.  Worse than even a drought which dried up all the horse corn and food prices going up because there was nothing to feed the chicken and cattle the earth just one jumbled up dry brown mess and roadways crumpled on their foundations.  But it was the way she sat in her pink floral house gown all folded up between her legs her blue veined hands on her lap tightening the folds like she was afraid of something getting in there and the knee-length panty hose falling down to slippered feet all the varicose veins exposed.  How she asked me if I wanted coffee though I was just a teen and never tried nothing bitter like that yet and not even alcohol and its taste.  Always a cigarette dangling from her puckered lips making her skin like paper wrinkle round her mouth underneath and her eyes squinted too like there was sunlight in them even though she had all the windows drawn shut with tasteless curtains in that trailer she lived in in Cahokia my daddy buying it for her for under ten thousand.  The sound of the one window unit she had in the living room above the love seat where she sat whining with ribbons flapping like that of her voice her having to talk over it louder because it sounded just like her—an expelled frosted wind.  Me across from her and the coffee table sitting in a wood chair one of the spindles in the back missing making it hard to sit unless I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my knees.  And that’s how we sat when she called my daddy to ask me come visit so she could tell me a story ‘bout her father’s family.  Some Aunt Bethany and her husband and their children.  How they played as children and what happened thinking if I heard it I might write it down because my daddy told her I like to write down things and she figured since I was young I’d understand.  Understand an old woman rememberin’ being young as if I was old enough to understand she was remembering which to my reckoning I don’t because for now I just feel like I’ll live forever…

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