by Gay Degani
Penny gently closes her bedroom door and tiptoes along the edges of the creaky hardwood floor. She doesn’t want to be heard by the Thanksgiving crowd below—the aunts, uncles, cousins, and especially her husband, kids, and grandkids. Her family isn’t like those on the TV shows she watched as a kid, Father Knows Best or Donna Reed. More like the Ewings of Dallas, without the money, glamor, or gunplay. They love each other, peck cheeks, give hugs, but are often self-absorbed, self-pitying, brusque, angry, and annoyed. Today is no different.
Soothed by the slide of curtain over rod and the subsequent darkness, Penny slips into bed, the sheets cool, soft, and welcoming. She flexes tight muscles and begins to relax as other TV shows flit across her mind, Modern Family, Family Ties, All in the Family. It’s like counting sheep. She cuddles her pillow, draws up her legs, begins to drift.
The bedroom door slams open. ‘Gramma!’ Four-year-old Kevin scampers in.
Penny freezes, keeps her eyes closed, takes slow shallow breaths.
Something swats her legs. She groans. Rolls over. Looks at her grandson waving his foam laser sword. He’s naked, chewing a wad of…
‘What’s in your mouth?’ she asks.
He spits a wet glob of the LA Times funny papers onto the bed. She says, ‘Where’s your mom?’
The boy hollers, ‘Mama! Gramma wants you!’
‘No, Kev, I don’t want her. I’m taking a nap.’
‘Can you read me a story?’
‘Not now. Maybe later.’
Penny’s son Roger walks in. ‘Mom, where’s the remote control?’ He’s thirty-six.
‘It’s not in bed with me.’
‘Yeah, but I thought you might have hidden it from the kids.’
‘I don’t care if they watch TV, Roger. It’s a holiday, and I need a quick nap.’
‘Oh, okay. Can Kevin crawl in and take a nap with you?’
‘But he’s your grandson.’
Pushing up on her elbows, she says, ‘He’s your son. Put some clothes on him and put him down in your bedroom.’
‘He won’t stay.’
‘Look, I spent most of yesterday at Costco buying food for twenty people. I cooked all day today. I need a break. Can’t you deal with your own son for an hour?’
Roger grimaces, grabs Kevin’s hand and hurries him along, whispering, ‘Gramma is grumpy. We’d better go watch TV.’
Penny almost calls them back, but presses her lips together, listens as Roger takes an inordinate amount of time to pull the door closed with barely a click. She sighs in relief, rolls onto her back, spread-eagles.
A moment of silence, then from below, the TV snaps on and someone laughs. She hears loud voices, then the opening music to Star Wars RUMBLES up through the bed like an earthquake.
Ah, Luke and Darth Vader, just another family, she thinks. At least, hers isn’t that dysfunctional. Thank goodness. She closes her eyes, and eventually, she sleeps.
California writer, Gay Degani, has published a collection of stories about mothers, Pomegranate, a full-length collection, Rattle of Want, and a suspense novel, What Came Before. She blogs occasionally at gaydegani.com.