Summer 2016 — THE POTOMAC

Turkey Vulture

  Lucien Gagnon

      Nan's real name was Carol, but everybody called her Nan, even though it was just the special grandma name her grandchildren called her. Everybody else must have thought her name was Nancy.
      Nan didn't look like anybody's grandmother was the thing. She looked more like the school crossing-guard she used to be before she went crazy and had to be let go, before something snapped and she began to hear voices, mostly her ex-husband, to whom she talked back, yelled back.
      Now she walked with a slouch, her large shapeless breasts swaying in the sweatshirt she wore that bore the slogan: Single and Lovin' It! on the front. Her mouth was twisted into a downward slur that looked like "attitude" — probably from the drugs she'd been prescribed. Put the crossing–guard's orange vest and cap on her and she'd look stern and authoritarian as she hadn't when it had been her job.
      "Kendra! Kendra!" Nan called from the kitchen to her nineteen-year-old granddaughter coming through the front door. Kendra ignored her and went up to her room. She had things to do.
      After Nan's husband had left her for another woman, Nan had moved in with their daughter Cathy and, Cathy's husband Ray, and their two children, Ray–Ray and Kendra. Kendra used to mind Nan, but after she became crazy, Nan didn't seem really real to her any more. Kendra was just turning fourteen when Nan moved in, and it had been about two years now since she'd lost the crossing–guard job. Kendra had more urgent things to do, anyway.
      Kendra was a large–breasted blond girl, not unlike her grandmother, only this was a more alluring trait in Kendra's case, and she'd discovered she could get things from boys if she flaunted her chest — drinks, meals, rides. She'd also discovered that she could make real money on the internet by displaying her breasts for a webcam outfit called Down and Dirty. In another fifteen years they would just look big and floppy, like Nan's, but now they made grown men groan with desire.
      "Kendra!" Cathy shouted up the stairs. "Kendra!"
      Kendra had put on a loose, provocative tanktop tee–shirt that she could lift up or pull down to reveal or conceal her breasts. She sat down in front of her Mac to make some money. But she needed a little time to will the proper mood, a sort of seductive boudoir complaisance. Now, agitated, she stood up, opened her bedroom door and shouted down the hallway to the head of the stairs.
      "What? What do you want?"
      "Nan's calling for you," her mother called back. Cathy had been down in the basement doing laundry.
      "What does she want?"
      "I don't know," Cathy replied, her voice fading as she turned back toward the basement to resume he work. "She's just been asking for you."
      Kendra turned off her computer. Her tanktop would not arouse suspicions, so she clattered down the stairs, as she was, to see what her grandmother wanted.
      "What is it, Nan?" Kendra asked, going into the kitchen where her grandmother was staring out the window in that vacant way that always alarmed her family.
      "Look!" Nan pointed at a turkey vulture sailing high up in the sky.
      "This is what you called me down here for?" Kendra's exasperation was a creaky door about to be slammed violently shut.
      Nan looked hurt, and confused, her bewildered eyes filming over, and for just a moment Kendra felt a stab of remorse as she saw herself as her grandmother must see her, a wide–eyed middle school kid, before her initiation into the mysterious transactions of adulthood.
      "Isn't it pretty?" Nan asked, almost pleading, "The way it hangs up in the air like that with its wings spread? Isn't it just so pretty?"

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