On her way to work, Joey stopped to kiss her grandmother’s statue on the cheek. Wrinkles deep enough to put your little finger in scored Nana’s face, from a lifetime lived outdoors. She had frozen mid-stride. Her eyes were fixed on the nearby rise where Joey’s grandfather stood. Grandmother no longer reacted to Joey’s presence or the warmth of the sun. Only last August she’d taken a few steps, but it was a 100 degrees now and Joey felt no sign of life.
That was sad, but Nana’s fading away had gone so gradually there had been hardly any pain. Joey liked her standing there by the driveway, so she could greet her before she got to work in summer, before school in winter, and talk about her day when she got back. Nana had always been there for her when her parents were working. She wished they would allow her to give Nana offerings of butter or blood, like people did in the olden days, but they were firmly against that old-fashioned nonsense.
The bus rode past the house, and Joey waved at Nana. Just before the junction, she looked up to see if she could spot Grampa. But he was invisible behind the trees in summer. Nana would never make it there on her own, Joey knew that deep in her bones. Something had to be done.
Work at the diner occupied her brain with its endless string of coffees and breakfasts, but during breaks she thought about her plan. Brianna would have helped, but she didn’t have the physical strength Joey needed. Bri did have a brother with a pick-up truck. The storeroom had a dolly. But how to get Nana up and down in the truck bed without getting a couple of big guys in on it? Joey was saving up her tips to rent a truck with a loading platform, because her parents put her salary in her college fund. She wasn’t even halfway to the rent yet.
After work she hiked up to Grampa. He stood in a great spot, with a wonderful view over the town and the surrounding woods, and the wooden bench Nana had installed.
Joey heard voices before she was even out of the woods. On top of the rise, she found two men with some kind of bushwhacking machine. A new, freshly woodchipped trail ended at Nana’s bench.
The men were walking around Grampa’s frozen figure, scratching their heads.
“Hey, what are you guys doing?” Joey said. “That’s my grampa.”
“Shouldn’t he be in your backyard then? Council says we gotta get rid of him.
“No!” Joey only just managed not to burst into tears. “Grampa loved this place. We’re waiting for my Nana to come join him.”
The men looked at each other and one of them checked his watch. “When’s she coming? We could take a break.”
Joey bit her lip. Nana was never coming. But then she had an idea. “How were you gonna move Grampa?”
Joey rode through the hot, blowy evening, her hand firmly clasped around Grampa’s. He’d been frozen for so long, it was unlikely he felt anything. But you never knew.
The truck juddered gently down the road. Joey banged on the cabin when they came to her turn.
The trail-making guys unloaded Grampa and set him down by Nana. They even helped her position Grampa so he still had a good view, but also was in Nana’s field of vision and vice versa. They were nicer about it than she’d expected. Okay, they didn’t have to drive down all the way to the dump now. But still.
She waved them off and looked silently at her grandparents for a moment. She didn’t know how long she had before her parents came om to give her hell. But she needed to savor this, take it slow.
She put butter on their hands and kissed their cheeks, all the wile whispering about how they were reunited now. Their pinkies just touched, exactly like she’d imagined. And then she waited.
The setting sun touched their faces. Joey wished she’d carved them wooden eyeballs and tongues, so they could see and talk, like they did in the old stories. But the butter and the sun and her words would have to do.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the pinky fingers moved to clasp each other.
Bo lives and works close to Amsterdam. Bo is the first Dutch author to have been published in Clarkesworld, F&SF, Analog and other places. Her sf novel "The Wan" was published by Pink Narcissus Press. When not writing, she knits, reads and gardens, preferably all three at the same time.
For more about her work, you can visit her website or find Bo on Facebook or Twitter, or her author page at Amazon.