by Aaron DiMunnoI stepped through the front door of my grandmother’s mobile home and the dim dank stale-piss smell of it engulfed me like a fishing net strung across the threshold. I was only at my grandmother's place because my parents had dropped me off out front with promises to return. My grandmother wanted to see me for my birthday but she and my parents were not talking. My grandmother demanded little more from me than the occasional visit, so I went.
But I hated being there. I was all nerves and glands. My girlfriend and I were currently in the planning stages of relinquishing our respective virginities. I didn’t even have a driver’s license yet. Charlie, my grandmother’s third and most recent husband was slumped in his wheelchair, parked on the cheap kitchen linoleum just to the right of the door. Alzheimer’s had eaten Charlie’s brain and he was going to die soon.
Three years earlier my grandmother Margaret was renting out spare bedrooms in her canary yellow Victorian. Charlie ended up there, renting a room at the top of the stairs that belonged to me until I was a toddler. Sometimes when I went over there, Charlie took me out to the front of the house and used the second hand on his wristwatch to time me while I ran sprints to the cracked sidewalk square on the corner of the block and then back again. One evening MeMa and Charlie sat on the thread-bare sofa in the living room holding hands sheepishly in the decrepit glow of the faded brocade lamp shades and announced to the family their intent to marry. They looked like two really old teenagers, twitchy under the family’s stare but unable to help themselves. I wondered if they had sex: Two paper bags crumpling together in the night. They’d known each other for no longer than a month and a half and Charlie was much older than my grandmother.
“His daughter thinks Mommy is after his money," I overheard my mother on the telephone speaking with my aunt. “She made him out to be this rich old miser or something.” If Charlie had stacks of money somewhere, nobody I knew ever saw any of it.
Almost immediately after their marriage, Charlie’s behavior started to change. Phone calls from my grandmother and my mother’s face pressing concern against the handset. Charlie speaking nonsense to me at the kitchen table while MeMa thundered around looking for more food. He started wandering out at night, getting lost wearing nothing but his old man’s robe. The police would bring him home most nights.
My grandmother Margaret weighed about 250 lbs and had trouble with her knees. She sold the property to the hospital up the street. They promptly plowed the whole thing under and created an extra parking lot.
I wasn’t brought to see my grandmother for months.
MeMa cashed in the paltry sum from the demolition of the family home and consulting no one, bought herself and her senile husband a trailer on a plot of land they would never own. Seventh identical white rectangle on the right, in the warm and welcoming Whispering Pines trailer park. It wasn't even a double-wide.
And that's where I found myself, fifteen years old, on the matted carpet just inside the front door. My mother’s mother had planted herself on the far side of the kitchen table. She was enormous. 300 pounds? More? The light from the bay window at the end of the trailer was all but blotted out by her massive silhouette. My eyes took forever to adjust. Charlie was in the wheelchair with his back to me. There were fat flies buzzing over a dark greasy puddled mass thickening in a pan on the formica counter. Tabloids with vampire alien bat babies and haggard celebrities awaited reading or recycling in piles stacked about the table-top and on the floor around my grandmother’s swollen ankles. Her toenails were like thick yellow bear claws. The heat of the place was a living thing that wheezed a reek of urine and melting toejam. I could hear a fan somewhere but I couldn’t feel its effects. Legions of white Entenmann’s baked goods boxes waited patiently and half eaten within her reach - sticky butter knives inside at the ready. MeMa opened her massive arms to me. The fat flowed over them like undulating bread dough. I walked slowly past Charlie in his wheelchair. He was staring with coal black eyes at absolutely nothing at all. I could see his catheter tube poking out between the flaps in his robe.
Jesus, I could see his balls.
In the obscene heat of the trailer the chilled clamminess of MeMa’s mushy arms was startling and served to unnerve me even more. I couldn't shake the memory of a crock pot covered in tin foil and filled with her homemade chicken soup that my grandmother had sent over during one of the infrequent periods when she and my mother were actually on speaking terms. The entire family had all just finished a helping of the soup. It was good. My step-father was just scooping into his second serving. He stopped and spit the entire mouthful back into his bowl – maggots! We stirred the ladle in the crock pot. They bobbed through the soup like rice.
Charlie started mumbling and rocking violently, rattling the flimsy trailer kitchen. I freed myself from MeMa’s gargantuan grasp. It was like shrugging off the affections of a cold sweaty Michelin Man. I looked over at Charlie. He looked through me with pleading eyes and called me a name that wasn’t my own. Tears rolled down his cheeks, hopeless and silent. Sparkles of refracted light lodged in the stubble of neglect on his cheeks and chin.
Charlie died three and a half months later. On the way to his funeral my parents let me drive the family car on the highway for the very first time. Then I helped carry Charlie’s casket. It was the first funeral I'd ever been to.
I had had sex exactly two times by then.
Aaron DiMunno wears pajama pants with polar bears in various poses. He once jerked off in the bathtub of the 13th century castle he was living in overlooking the moat, and shot himself in the eye because it had been so long. Aaron lives in New York City.