The Long Beep
My mother's fingers are scissors. There are lines to cut. My mother
doesn't cut them. She pinches my grandmother's lips. My grandmother's
eyes stay closed.
"Baby bird," my mother says.
My grandmother's breath is translated by a machine. There are plastic
tubes folding and unfolding. It could be a robot huffing glue from a
sturdy bag. I ask my mother if robots can get high. My mother says she
thinks cars are robots, and cars perform better with the special oil,
Short beeps come from a monitor. My mother taps her feet in time. The
beeps poke me in the ear like ignored text messages. I check my phone.
The screen is empty.
A nurse brings lunch. My mother sucks Coke through a bendy straw and
cries. She looks like an animal abandoned after the egg. Her feathers
are purple under her skin. They're the bruises she got from hugging
herself too hard.
We bite our sandwiches into bat's wings. I say there's no flavor but
what the tuna got from the can. I fly my sandwich into the garbage.
My mother dusts off the beeping monitor with a napkin. She brings the
napkin to her lips and wipes away leftover tuna. The grease streaks the
napkin but doesn't absorb. My mother dabs the napkin at my
grandmother's mouth and laughs.
"She could die," my mother says, "and it would take a computer to show
me anything's different."
A nurse wheels a patient down the hall. The patient is a teenage boy.
"I know that woman," he says. "That woman hint me with her car."
He means to say "hit," but he's missing his nose.
I look at my grandmother like I look at the art in a museum. I wait for
something to move.
My mother gets cheek to cheek with my grandmother. I lift my phone. I
press my thumb on the screen to take a picture. My mother's forehead
comes across like sandpaper. My grandmother looks pink and well.
My mother sneezes. My grandmother dies. The long beep tells us.
"I killed her," my mother says.
A doctor comes in to correct my mother. The doctor says my
grandmother's brain died when she hit the windshield. We were just
waiting for her heart.
"Something to consider," he says.
My mother considers it.
I press my thumb on the screen of my phone again. I want to send my
best friend a picture of a dead woman. I send the picture to my mother
instead. Her pocket shakes. My mother pulls out her phone and looks.
"You shouldn't have done that," she says.
I say it was an accident. My mother repeats the word and