Word Count 473
By Anne Nassar
“It’s completely unfair,” his sister said. He kept quiet. He felt the same way, but could not say so. That would just egg her on.
“I took care of her for years,” his sister said, “She used to call me in the middle of the night and ask her to bring her a cup of tea! And I did! I carried her down the stairs so she could look at the hummingbirds in the Bee Balm. I took out her garbage, I cleaned the whole place, I did her shopping. I took her to her hair appointment. I took her to the doctor. I divvied up her pills. She had chronic diarrhea and half the time she didn’t make it to the toilet, but she refused to wear diapers, so whenever she had an accident, I’d have to wash the shi**y sheets and give her a bath.”
“Okay, stop,” he said. His grandmother didn’t like any sort of vulgarity. She would never have talked to him about bodily functions, or illness.
“I can’t even tell you what I went through?”
“Gosia,” he said, “I’m sorry that I wasn’t around to help you with Babka.”
“I took so much time away from my family,” she said, “And it feels like she didn’t even appreciate it. “
He said nothing.
“No matter what I did for her, she preferred you,” Gosia said, bitterly.
And it was true. He wanted to say, but Dad preferred you. Our brothers prefer you. Everyone in the world prefers you to me. I’m a pariah, an untouchable. His sister always knew what he was thinking.
“Well,” she said, “Now that you have the house, you’re landed gentry, aren’t you? You can laugh at everyone who ever put you down. “
He thought of Gosia, outside school, pounding his enemies with her tiny mittened fists, shrieking, you leave my brother alone! He thought of her, wiping the seat of a chair with a cloth, so that she could sit down and visit with him in the psych ward visitor’s lounge.
“You can have the house,” he said.
“Alek, I’m not mad that you have the house. I’m happy. It just hurts. She didn’t even write me a letter. “
After he’d hung up the phone, he went into his grandmother’s studio. He walked past all the bright gardens and lush tropical landscapes. He looked once again at the strange, dark paintings that she’d completed before her death. They were all of the same place, he was convinced. The light fell in the same way. And there was a child in some of them that resembled him. But he’d never been to this bleak town. He didn’t recognize any of the ramshackle buildings. Why would she paint him into a place he’d never been? And then it occurred to him, that the child wasn’t him.