CONTESTS

Spring Training

MARK PATERSON

First prize winner of the 5th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.

My grandfather went down to West Palm Beach every March. For two weeks he left the cold and the wet to my grandmother and me. Neither of us sat in his La-Z-Boy while he was away but we watched all the game shows and Alice reruns we wanted.

Every year during those two weeks my grandmother would paint the whole house. I’d just get used to eating in a blue kitchen and then it would be yellow. Once, she painted the living room pink. When my sunburned grandfather got home he squinted, shook his head, said “Jeez,” and sat down in his chair and put on the hockey game.

The year I was six we had a very warm March. My grandmother taught me the word unseasonably. The kitchen was green.

“Why don’t we go to spring training?” I asked over grilled cheese and chocolate milk.

“It’s not for ladies and little boys.”

“Why?”

My grandmother lit a cigarette and put away the milk. She ran water in the sink.

“This sandwich is unseasonably good.”

Smoky kiss on the back of my neck.

The year the kitchen was brown my grandmother played a trick on my grand­father. She lay down in bed, covers up to her chin, and said, “Go watch for him in the window. When he gets home, tell him Nanny’s tired.”

“Tired?”

“Tell him Nanny’s been asleep since Tuesday.”

“But—”

“It’s just a joke. Go watch for him.”

When my grandfather arrived, a man got out of the car with him. They came up the walk together, both of their faces red like lobsters. I didn’t know the man. He was tall and had a big stomach and wore a yellow turtleneck tucked into a pair of plaid pants. He had enormous sunglasses that covered not only his eyes but almost his whole nose, too.

I went out on the balcony. “Nanny went to bed on Tuesday.”

“Eh?”

“Nanny went to bed on Tuesday and she’s still asleep.”

“Jeez.”

My grandfather mounted the stairs and brushed past me into the house.

The man came up on the balcony. He breathed hard. “Look at this, kid.” He handed me a pen. There was a small picture on it, a lady wearing a black dress. “Now hold it up straight.” I tipped the pen upright. The picture began to change. The man chuckled. Slowly, the lady’s dress disappeared and soon she was naked.

My grandmother came outside. She was holding her arm and she looked tired for real. I closed my fingers around the pen but part of it stuck out and she grabbed my wrist and I opened my hand again.

“What do you think you’re doing? He’s just a little boy.”

“Sorry, lady. Just a joke.”

The day got more fun after that. My grandmother and I walked up to Durocher’s and she bought me a pepperoni stick and a Kit Kat. We walked all over and didn’t even go home until dark.

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MARK PATERSON

Mark Paterson is the author of the short story collections A Finely Tuned Apathy Machine and Other People’s Showers (both Exile Editions). He lives near Montreal. Visit markpaterson.ca.


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