"Siesta" by Amber Coverdale Sumrall

May 29, 2020
Grandma's house has a green gate that opens on a courtyard with brick-red tiles from Mexico. Bright blue and yellow pots, filled with cactus, sit on the adobe ledges. Birds of Paradise border the patio. Grandpa's handcarved gourds, painted with Indian symbols for rain, hold mounds of walnuts, figs and peaches from the backyard trees.

We sit in wicker chairs, in the summer sun, drinking Postum from tall orange mugs with wooden holders. I pretend it is coffee. I always feel like I'm on vacation when I visit, even though we live in the same city.

Grandpa leaves to work in his garden. When we're alone Grandma tells me stories about her family. She's proud to be Indian. She's descended from three different tribes, one's called Mohawk. Whenever she says Mohawk, I think tomahawk. I know what a tomahawk is; I've seen them for sale in souvenir stores in Yellowstone National Park. Indians used to scalp white men with them. Grandma says tomahawks were the first axes. She says that if white men had minded their own business instead of poisoning Indians with alcohol, shooting them and stealing their land, the Indians wouldn't have had to scalp them.

She sighs, "You'll never find the truth in your school books, honeygirl. It's all been turned to lies. Same with religion. Got to look real hard for the truth nowadays."

Grandma calls me honeygirl. So does Grandpa. Every morning he gets up before dawn to grind wheat in the basement for his breakfast. Grandpa cooks all his own meals. That's because he likes to eat his supper when most people have breakfast, and have milk and fruit in the evening. He even washes his dishes and puts them away.

Grandma and Grandpa love each other more than anybody I know. He brings her flowers from his garden and they hug and kiss a lot. I mean real hugs and kisses, not the quick dabs my father gives my mother before he goes off to work. Grandma scratches Grandpa's back too. Lucky Grandpa. Having my back scratched is just about my most favorite thing. Grandma says love is the most important thing in the world.

"That's why we're born, honeygirl," she says. "To learn how to love each other. And it takes all the time we've got. Some folks never get the hang of it."

We finish our Postum and Grandma says it's "siesta" time. She and Grandpa nap together every afternoon. Today she has promised to nap with me.

The house is cool and dark. I follow her into the spare bedroom and climb on the four-poster bed. Grandma looks like a gypsy. Her dresses all feel like silk; she wears scarves and bracelets, earrings and glittery brooches. I think my Grandma is beautiful. Her dark braided hair is rolled in circles on the back of her head and held by two silver clips.

Grandma pulls back the white chenille bedspread, then the blankets. I take off my shoes and socks, jeans and shirt. She lets me sleep naked, says it's too hot for covers. I crawl across the bed until I touch the cool plaster wall, then lift the sheet over me. The cracked yellow windowshade flaps in the afternoon breeze.

"Santa Ana's are blowing again," she says. "Wind's full of evil spirits. They make folks crazy." She chuckles. "Even spirits got to create some mischief now and then."

She slides her flowered dress over her head and lets her slip fall to the floor. ane

Grandma's huge breasts rest on her belly. Blue veins run through them like tiny rivers. I've never seen real breasts before. Mother hides hers. She says women are cursed because of Eve's sin with the devil, and I'll find that out for myself someday. She says I'll have breasts someday too, but I don't believe her. I hate dresses and perfume and patent leather shoes. Daddy says I'm a tomboy. How can a tomboy grow breasts?

Grandma rolls into bed with me. She is naked too. I thought grown-ups had to wear nightgowns or pajamas to bed. That they could get arrested for being naked.

"Someone's been filling your head with foolish notions, Grandma says. "I won't mention any names. Come close, honeygirl."

I snuggle next to Grandma, nestle against her warm breasts, her soft round belly. She holds me, kisses my neck, then moves slightly away and begins to scratch my back with her long fingernails. I feel goosebumps all over my body. Her nipples graze my back. I want to touch her breasts, suck on the hard nipples.

She traces circles round and round with her fingers until I can barely keep my eyes open.

When I wake, Grandma is gone. I have to pee and pass by Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom. Their door is shut and it sounds like they are bouncing on the bed. I want to peek but I'm scared. They are making strange noises that I've never heard before. I know what they are doing has something to do with Grandma's breasts. I just know it!

I go back to bed and pretend I am napping with Grandma and Grandpa. My hands find the safe, tingly place between my legs.

It is almost dark when I wake up again. The smell of stewed rabbit gets me up real quick. I put my clothes on and go out to the kitchen. Grandma and Grandpa are sitting in their bathrobes, smiling at each other. They are smiling and rocking in their rocking chairs, looking like they've got a secret.

"Supper's almost ready, honeygirl. I fixed your favorite: stewed rabbit and dumplings. And Grandpa made fruit salad for dessert. Are you hungry?"

"I'm starving!"

"Well, we all seem to have worked up powerful appetites," Grandma says. She winks at Grandpa, then at me.

"Powerful indeed," Grandpa says.

Amber Coverdale Sumrall, "Siesta"
This story was in "Word of Mouth: 150 Short-Short Stories by 90 Women Writers", a book I semi-stole from my Aunt a long while back, probably in college-- one of those books you reread and realized hit you at just the right time to be a big influence on you.
That's why we're born, honeygirl. To learn how to love each other. And it takes all the time we've got. Some folks never get the hang of it.
Grandma in "Siesta" by Amber Coverdale Sumrall.
That's the most important line for me. Frankly with my deeply ingrained habit of plucking out intuitive emotion (in order to leave more room for my best guessed of objective and universal truth) I think I might be one of those that never quite get the hang of it, just a mix of affection and admiration and responsibility.

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Welp, guess I'm going to be giving up the Hawaiian shirts this summer, because destructionphile "civil war 2" morons are rallying in them? Damn that's like half my summer shirts.