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Callaloo 24.4 (2001) 1022-1024



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Assisted Living
(Goldsboro Narrative #44)

Forrest Hamer


1.

Down the hall from Mr. Frank's room is where Miss Naomi stays.
She wheels herself up and down the hall before lunch, but after the afternoon snack of
Cheetos and Lorna Doones, she knocks on Mr. Frank's door and asks him to be
her escort.
This upsets the day attendant, Marlene, who thinks Miss Naomi has been too used all her
life to men's attentions.
Marlene thinks Mr. Frank is just too nice.

Mr. Frank doesn't seem to mind, but when his son comes over and watches TV shows
from the 60s, or when Mr. Frank's daughter comes to visit with her two quiet boys
or Mr. Frank's two sisters-in-law, Mr. Frank complains about having to keep his
apartment door closed, and having to pretend once in a while he can't hear
someone knocking.
Aside from this, Mr. Frank likes the new place.
He sometimes doesn't know where he is, but he knows this is where he belongs.
Two years ago, this was flat, pine-lined land, just past the ends of the city Mr. Frank
moved to once he got married.
His wife's people had died one by one in this town, and one day so did his wife, but there
were still a few family left and two of them were his children.
Sometimes he didn't recognize exactly who they were--he'd call his boy his brother,
speak to his daughter like she was his mother, and it was good for once to have all
his kinfolk in the same town.
Mr. Frank gets ashamed sometimes by Miss Naomi's interest in him.
He's too old, he tells his son, to have anything to do with that mess.
Marlene thinks Mr. Frank should just relax and finally let himself be taken care of.
Miss Naomi thinks Marlene should mind her own business, and let Mr. Frank get used to
being here. [End Page 1022]

2.
Because they still expect to be protected,
the brothers are quiet and polite in adult company.
When they are at home in their room,
the younger one talks and talks, even in his sleep,
and his brother draws powerful saviors who arrive
just when they are needed.
The two boys are close together in age,
but Jamal remembers his grandmother telling her sisters
that the brothers couldn't be more different.
And she said they were as close to each other
as she and her sisters were, she the talkative one,
one or the other of her sisters serious or funny.
But none of the sisters could draw, so Jamal wonders
where this comes from in him,
neither his mother nor his father talented this way,
neither of them anxious
by something in the world to be seen.
Jamal wants to make a picture for his grandpa.
At first he thought to draw another savior,
but in the last few days he has begun to sense
something forming in him as a mood.
He recognizes this in his grandpa
who sometimes stays more quiet than he can be, who stares
at people as if he doesn't know them.
And because his grandpa's mood consumes every room,
Jamal has wished his mother would forego
bringing him and his brother to visit that place.
The feeling appears this time to help him, though,
and Jamal begins believing he might finally be able to make
his grandpa remember him for good.

3.
Maybe living here is a mistake, Maria often thinks.
Maybe this is not the place she thought.
Maybe she should have stayed
where she already comes from, in Manzanillo,
with her sisters and her mother, and the man
she would have married had he asked her
         not to go. [End Page 1023]
Maybe Marlene, her friend from church
who has never been from any other place,
is wrong, and Maria will never belong,
even if they bury her in the limed ground
         right under.
Maybe the children she teaches
are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6512
Print ISSN
0161-2492
Pages
p. 1025
Launched on MUSE
2001-11-01
Open Access
No
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