One stop car audio. An advertising jingle: a woman singing the words, One stop car audio. Digital editing extends the final syllable of the word audio, shifts the pitch to make it be six or eight syllables. O-o-o-o-o-o-o-o. Eight syllables. I’m in the car, my mother’s car. Years later I’ll have my own car. My mother’s father will get confused, is it in reverse or is it in neutral. He only uses it to drive from their cottage to the dining hall, at their retirement community. Now a van will come take them to dinner.
I’ll try to see them. Sometimes my grandfather will be confused why I have the car, why I’m leaving with the car. I didn’t like him when I was a kid. He wanted to wrestle on the floor and I wanted to play gin rummy. My other grandfather was older. He liked to play gin rummy with me and died when I was young. He called elephants pachyderms and camels dromedaries and gasoline petrol. My dad said that when he was a kid and my grandmother’s parents came to visit, granddad would always say he had to go fix something in the basement but actually just went down there to fix himself a drink. My great-grandparents were teetotalers. And I thought he called Delaware Maryland. That Maryland was another funny nickname he knew about. He’d say, “Did you have a nice time in Maryland?” when I’d go and visit my mother’s parents in Delaware.
Once, the day after we got back from Delaware – we’d take a ferry from Cape May, New Jersey to Lewis, Delaware and there was the Simpsons video game and nachos, and you could smoke cigarettes inside the ferry and one time I told some young men smoking that they shouldn’t smoke, I was very young, and there was Tekken and a golf video game where it’s a big ball that you spin with your hand, and a bowling game like that, and Ms. Pacman – in my mom’s car coming home after KEYS, an afterschool program for children of working parents, my mom said, “Some kids vandalized an office building on Route 9 this weekend. They smashed the windows and spray-painted the walls.”
I said, “I didn’t do it – I was in Delaware, with you.” At KEYS there was Operation and Chutes and Ladders. Connect Four. We watched the 1993 film version of The Secret Garden and one time a young man came to talk to us about nutrition. He was affiliated with Rutgers University and for years I would associate that public research university chiefly with this sweating young man, and with the food pyramid.
Someone from my mother’s side of the family gave me a t-shirt that said I’m A Crabby Person. It had a picture of a crab on it. Grandpa would organize family photos and I would always make a face. I see the pictures now – why would I make a face? Wasn’t it nice that he would want to look at pictures of us. At grandma’s ninetieth birthday party, Uncle Phil jokes that grandpa should organize a photo. Grandpa wears pajamas. He takes food off of the guests’ plates. He has no fingernail on his right ring finger because he reached into a lawnmower years ago, to dislodge an obstruction. And one time at KEYS Spencer told me he didn’t like gay people. I asked why and he said, “They’re making America a gay nation.” Spencer’s dad was the high school guidance councelor. Spencer would be our valedictorian. I google him. Look at his LinkedIn. At the Tumblr page for his upcoming wedding, outside of Atlanta. There will be a golf tournament the Friday of, for those guests interested.
Zachary German has published a novel and a booklet of short fiction. He lives in New York City.