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  • Grandma's Four Stories
  • Lyzette Wanzer (bio)

The house with the porch, the wooden swing, with the garden, the alley cats, with the woods, the hidden lake, with the fruit trees, the aunts, uncles, greats, blood cousins, convenience cousins, from points north and south, in the green kitchen and earthy den, with the attic bedroom, the dusty basement, with the crawl spaces, the hidden panels, with the tunnel, now sealed, part of the Underground Rail. She so spun her fairy tales without sugar coating, not even for a preschooler, I got to imagining a slave collapsed, red bandana over her hair, tattered skirt, single-sandaled, weary, frightened, glad to have reached refuge.

Three yellowed pine needles spanned the part in her hair as she led me through soaring boles, damp wind churning the clouds' meringue faces, prickling our noses, top notes of spring rain. Past the casual buzz of bumblebees, whipping motor of hummingbird wings, through the creek's running light, cupping apples in our damp grainy palms, skittering from one rock to the next like a pair of dusky water spiders, breeze freighted with seaplane fumes, a here-and-there square of muted sunshine poking through, queue of cats trailing after us. No friends of mine, but they knew her and I had to share. We all left firm, fine prints in banked sand.

A stroke swooped down on the wings of the quietest bird you ever didn't see. After that. Underground stories, woodland treks, gatherings in the presence of the ancestral, nixed. I was still shapeless, all elbows, knees, beaded braids, roller-skate skinny, and very much interested in being a boy. Was told she lost the house, just couldn't fathom how anyone could lose a house that huge. Was told she lost her left arm and leg, yet both were still there. The holiday hearth migrated with her to the city, to Murray Hill, to the East Side one-bedroom with dueling TVs, Planet of the Apes vs. King Kong, folks digging their turkey, stuffing, their Smithfield, cranberry sauce, their collards, cobbler, their kale, salsa, their pig's feet, sugar pie on the balcony, the sofa, in the kitchen, the bathroom, in the foyer, the closets, and for the under-18s, the outside hallway. [End Page 74]

Lyzette Wanzer

Lyzette Wanzer has published in a number of periodicals, including Literary Paritantra, Pacific Review, Specs, Tampa Review, Journal of Experimental Fiction, Iris, and Pacific Review.