“A.K.A. Living,” by Ally Glass-Katz, appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of MQR.
Before he is dead, Grandad misses his funeral. The ceremony is supposed to be Thursday, has been Thursday for weeks. But Grandad doesn’t die on time. He doesn’t do anything on time, hasn’t done anything right for a while now, so he misses the funeral and drinks red Gatorade with what’s supposed to be his final meal.
When I shuffle into the kitchen in my old jeans and flannel, I see him prone on his cot, jaw hinged, teeth salmon-colored and stained.
“He always had perfect teeth,” Mom says, and I look down at Grandad, my eyes glass.
On the cot, Grandad gurgles.
“Should we do anything?” I ask.
“He’ll die tonight,” Mom says.
But he doesn’t. He doesn’t die Friday either, or the following Friday, or the Friday after that. He lies unchanging on the day bed, mouth open, chest buoyed up by something inside. Here’s what does change: October bleeds into November, which bleeds into December, which means winter. Mom and I watch the sun set from our roof. It slides behind the ice floes and disappears, casting black shadows across the sea.
When we get back down to the living room, Grandad’s awake, the remote clasped in his hand.
“How do you feel?” Mom asks, and he shushes her, rolling to face the TV.
On the screen, the news anchor is talking about Barrow’s sunset, how meteorologists say we won’t see the sun again for fifty-four days.
“What residents will see,” she says, pointing to a photo of a young man, “is Sean Callady, son of Idaho governor Earl Callady, and rumored killer of Israeli lingerie model Chava Gabore.” A photo of a tan woman in angel wings flashes across the screen.
Grandad says, “She’s a hottie.”
Mom says, “Dad!”
I say, “Shhh. I want to hear.”
The anchor gestures toward a map of Alaska. “Sean Callady plans to move with his family to America’s northernmost town,” she says, highlighting a chunk of ocean five hundred miles south of Barrow, “where he’ll film a reality show about his dating life and personal journey.”
“Personal journey,” Mom repeats. “What is that?”
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Ally Glass-Katz is a Fiction Fellow at the Michener Center for Writers. Her recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Shenandoah, Sewanee Review, minnesota review, and elsewhere. She lives in Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @allygk.
Image: Kent, Rockwell. “Sunglare, Alaska.” 1919. Oil on canvas pasted on plywood. Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.