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August 24, 2023 Fiction

On All Fours

Marc Tweed

On All Fours photo

I'm going to tell you about getting in the closet with Grandma to pray.

We push aside all stupid decades: Christmas tree stand making slow escape from disintegrating cardboard box, garbage bag of sick-sweet sheets, something prickly—it catches onto Grandma’s dress, won’t let go until she very, very, very carefully unhooks it (bad joints). Something that whirs to life and surprises us making loud clicks sound for some seconds, then shuts whatever damn mouth it has.

After all that is figured out, we get started.

I sit in the way I’m not supposed to, my legs splayed out like buffalo chicken wings.

I begin by telling her each fire has a soul and even a personality and it's okay to pray for the eternal soul of a fire, whether it has warmed a sweet little home or burned an entire family to a crisp. You visit them for dinner or make horror-eyes next to a hospital bed. It’s pudding for both of you, either way.

Grandma does not sound convinced but I gently reassure her by saying it all backwards so it's easier to understand. I whisper Psirc a ot ylimaf eritne na denrub ro emoh a demraw sah ti rehtehw, erif a fo luos lanrete eht rof yarp ot yako s'ti dna ytilanosrep a neve dna luos a sah erif hcae a few times until she at last nods in agreement.

The thing about Grandma is that she seems to show up unannounced and she doesn’t care about the substance of the prayers, just that they end in Amen.

She’ll pull up in front of our house in a bone-white, loaf-shaped car that smells like Pledge and cigarette smoke and my father will hide his bottle of Rumple Minze and I’ll yell up the stairs to my mom who is up there weeping in bed, Get the closet ready, Grandma is here! and the weeping will grow louder and louder until it fills the entire house with a damp, wilting despair that sets the stage for any number of difficult emergencies.