The Phone Call

He didn’t speak to her for two weeks in 1965, Grandma told me over the phone as I waited for the bathtub to fill with sudsy water. It was because of a recipe, Grandma said. She didn’t tell me what the recipe was, and I didn’t ask her. She had swapped an ingredient, and Grandpa noticed the difference. It was his mama’s recipe, and he was upset Grandma changed it without telling him. She cooked Grandpa’s meals, she told me, but she didn’t bother to set the table. He would come in for dinner after milking the cows, take the food out of the oven, put the food on a chipped green plate, walk to the table, pull out his chair, sit down, and eat without saying a word to her. I pressed the cellphone to my ear with one hand while the fingers of my other hand skimmed the water’s bubbly surface. A person could drown in under sixty seconds in as little as three inches of water, and I filed that information away because sometimes random trivia questions came up during drinks after work. She said Grandpa asked for her forgiveness right before he died, and she gave it to him because what else could she say to a dying man. Grandma hadn’t visited his grave since the day of the funeral, and nobody told her that was a bad thing because she had already suffered enough. I twisted several strands of short blond hair around my finger and watched as the cat stuck his black paw underneath the door to reach for my dirty sock. Grandma told me she wanted to be a journalist, but she couldn’t afford college in 1952, and I tried to sound interested in her story because I had heard it seventeen times before. The cat gave up trying to capture my laundry, and I heard it run towards the kitchen. I opened the cabinet and unscrewed a tube of red lipstick and realized I hadn’t worn that shade since the breakup. I tossed it into the garbage can and wondered how it all ended so badly. Grandma told me to have a good night and a good day tomorrow, and I told her the same. I returned to the edge of the tub, dipped my fingers into the water, and sighed. It had gone cold, and the hot water was used up for a few minutes. This was my life now, but I guess I was okay with it.

Rebecca Buller is a writer living in Oklahoma. Her work has appeared in various publications including Burningword Literary Journal, Cloudbank, and Star 82 Review. She enjoys a daily cup of herbal tea and is currently self-studying Spanish and the acoustic guitar.

See more of Rebecca's work in 7.4

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