The smell of strong, percolated coffee filled the air, mingled with the odor of stale cigarette smoke. The constant whining of the electric clock combined with the startling gong from the clock upstairs, seemingly random and meant to frighten.
As if born from the unsettling atmosphere, she sat in the wicker chair in her house dress, the smoke from her cigarette curling menacingly up above our heads. There was a constant battle inside me, when I was with her, to keep any sense of self-esteem going. I was annoyance embodied, in her house with the French Toile wallpaper I was not allowed to touch.
The only conversation I remember having with her, that didn’t invoke a sinking feeling of guilt in the pit of my stomach, was when we talked, once, about people we knew with body parts for last names. I still remember my example: the family named “Head”, whose father had abandoned them after his tour in Vietnam. I don’t remember her example anymore. “Toe”, or perhaps, “Finger”? I don’t know.
She died too soon, not in youth, but in hatred; too soon for the brain cells of nastiness to be burned away by dementia, too soon to be frail and surrounded by a concerned family.
She died in the prime of sarcastic jibes at the inadequacy of her children’s children.