Word Count: 835
A/N: Written for week #1 at brigits_flame. All of "Grandma"'s dialogue are song lyrics from Gladys Knight's Midnight Train to Georgia.
“Okay, are you sure you’re ready for this?”
Kristin turned her head to avoid meeting her mother’s gaze. “I don’t have any choice, remember?”
Sue gripped the steering wheel and made a left into the nursing home parking lot. “That isn’t true. I just said it’s been awhile since you’ve been in to see Grandma, that’s all.”
“What’s the point?” Kristin asked. “Grandma’s crazy.”
“Kristin!” Sue frowned. “That’s not nice.”
“Well, she is,” Kristin said, still facing the window. She drew a heart in the condensation her breath left on the pane, then crossed it out.
“Stop it,” Sue said, but she didn’t elaborate on what to stop. “We’re here. Just … try to be pleasant for once. Okay?”
The slamming of the car door was her only answer.
The woman behind the welcome desk recognized Sue and waved them through. “How is she today, Brenda?” Sue asked.
“Oh, same as always. A bit excited after breakfast,” Brenda said. “She always likes pancake day.”
“Good,” Sue said. She turned right and walked down the hall.
“Pancake day,” Kristin said. “God, I hope I die if that’s what I have to look forward to. Just kill me.”
“Sh! We’re here,” Sue said. Then, louder, “Hey, Mom, it’s me. How are you today? I brought someone to see you.”
They stepped into the room without knocking. It felt smaller than it was with shades that were perpetually kept drawn, as if to ward off any bit of cheer from all but the most anemic light that filtered through. Though there were two beds, only one of them was occupied. “Georgia!” the old woman croaked.
Kristin recoiled. “See? She doesn’t even know who I am!”
“Don’t be silly,” Sue said. “It’s the stroke, remember? She just says the wrong things sometimes. She knows you. Say hi.”
Kristin cleared her throat. “Hi, Grandma.”
“Georgia, yeah,” Grandma said.
Sue pulled two folding chairs from behind the door and opened them. “I heard you had a good morning, Mom. Is that right?”
“Proved too much for the man,” Grandma said. “Too much!”
Sue nodded. “You’re tired, then. You should rest, maybe. There’s going to be Bingo later, and you don’t want to miss that.”
“She didn’t say that,” Kristin whispered.
Sue pulled out a ball of yarn and began knitting. “You have to do your best to understand, honey. Why don’t you tell her about school? She’s been asking.”
“Yeah, right,” Kristin said.
Kristin sighed. “Fine. Grandma, I got straight A’s last semester. Dad says that if I keep my grades up I can probably qualify for a scholarship, and he’ll take me on a tour of all the colleges I want to see over the summer. So I’m really excited about that.”
Grandma spit a glob on mucus into her hand and let it drip onto the floor. “Dreams don't always come true, uh uh.”
“Ew!” Kristin shouted.
Sue jumped to her feet and wiped away the mess. “Mom, you should have told me you needed help. That’s what I’m here for.”
“Oh-oh, he's leaving,” Grandma said.
“Not yet, Mom, we just got here,” Sue said.
“Why does she keep calling you a ‘he?’” Kristin asked.
“She’s just a little confused,” Sue answered. “She knows who we are. She remembers you. Go on, tell her something else.”
Kristin folded her arms. “No thanks.”
“A simpler place and time,” Grandma said. She pointed at Kristin, and then at Sue. “Guess who’s gonna be right by his side.”
“Um ...” Kristin narrowed her eyes. “Why is Grandma talking like Dr. Seuss?”
“Since the stroke she only says things from the lines of a song,” Sue said. “But she understands everything you’re saying.
“Are you kidding me? All songs or just one song?” Kristin asked.
“Just one song,” Sue said.
“I don’t know,” Sue said. “It’s just how it is. I imagine it must be frustrating. Don’t you?”
“Yeah. Especially if it was some lame ass song.”
Kristin shrugged. “What? It probably is.”
“I'm gonna be with him,” Grandma said. “For love.” She was looking right at Kristin.
Kristin swallowed. “I love you, too?”
Grandma nodded. “I know you will.”
They didn’t stay long after that. Sue talked about her quilting bee and Kristin mentioned her new boyfriend, and then they left. In the car, they were quiet on the ride home.
“Mom, what was the song that Grandma knew the words to?”
“Midnight Train to Georgia. Although I wish she had one with more lines in it. I’m not sure why that one stuck in her head.” Sue said. “Dad used to love to hear her sing it, though. She had a beautiful voice, you know.”
“I didn’t know that,” Kristin said.
“I’ll have to tell you about her sometime,” Sue said. “If you’d like to hear.”
“Okay,” Kristin said. “Maybe sometime I could visit Grandma again, too.”
This time, it was Sue’s turn to face the window so her daughter wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes.