My grandmother was bedridden and would ask for water, glass after glass of it, there was no filling her and no one understood where it could possibly be going. Everyone was waiting, for what exactly it is hard to say, to be honest nobody knew what to make of any of it, but the waiting became important to us, and it filled our lives slowly with a promise until there wasn’t such a thing as a life any longer so much as the waiting and the promise; the slow wet whisper of “more please” that was less and less a voice and more and more what we are realizing for the first time is only the world, and wonderfully so, the waiting to see if after one more glass, all ninety pounds of our grandmother would finally say “enough,” or “thank you,” “goodnight.” And if during a full moon, the children coming in, somehow called by the gentle crashing of the tide, could discern their own trajectory across whatever history trembled beneath grandmother’s blouse. And me with my younger brother watching the gentle rise and fall of that blotted entirety, the dark shift of her dropsical thighs, the sleepy children crawling up around her, into the bed, children buoyant with love, and loved back in a way that water loves the buoyant. Can I cry then and breathe a small prayer across the slow wash of her coming in and out around us all, hoping for the prayer to find its way back to me someday in a bottle or a dream? And a strange gravity pulling the whole house towards her then, pulling the whole town towards her, until everyone had quit their jobs, until all anyone ever heard was the sound of feet running to and from the water faucet, from everywhere and every world, all to one point, all to two words; “more please,” “more please.” And soon all speech was forgotten or abandoned in the place of those two words. When she finally did die everyone was still waiting, and the promise, whatever such a promise could possibly be, had become so big and everything else emptied out by it, and we were waiting for her to burst open with it for so long. And when one of the children dropped a penny down her throat there was no splash, and maybe after the point of departure no penny either. And once in a while someone will still carelessly go to the sink with an empty glass.
Jim Redmond graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in English and Creative Writing and is currently pursuing an M.F.A. at the University of Michigan.
“One of my favorite front porch memories is less a memory and more a reimagining. I love a memory that you can’t really remember, but only the stock of its residuals, and you have to work from there, and what kind of space that puts you in. These fragments which fragment my thinking and writing. A set piece you can keep coming back to? The porch swing is essential to this reimagining in terms of transport and intimacy; I am 8 or 9 and at my great-grandfather’s farm house. There is family in the living room, busy catching up, and mothers and grandmothers in the kitchen busy cooking up, all kinds of warmth, and I can barely hear all of this clamor from where I sit outside. It all rings a nice little cadence which I can swing to and watch the birds feed. This is where I remember my great-grandfather best. Here, he brings his big, calm presence out to the porch and takes a seat beside me. He rests a glass of thick whisky on his knee, brushes a few strands of hair across his scalp and lets loose a big sigh. I snatch a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye and I think he is thinking something important but I am afraid to ask. He is not one for introductions or how-do-you-dos. He has a way of starting in the middle of things and working his way back; this usually involves some kind of story or anecdote, which he begins with a slow rumble. I don’t remember what he said or much of anything he ever said, but I know he was a story-teller without having to remember the stories. I remember him as a half-truth telling half-truths. Here he trails off, has worked his way back to silence. He looks up across the cornfield; his make at a living. It’s probably just his eyesight going bad on him, but he seems to be squinting hard at something, but I’m not sure what or where to follow. I squint too, as a way of looking back, as a starting point, and sometimes I think I’m still looking across that field and I don’t need to know why.”