The shadows were longer and pointing to the east by the time Jenny finished with Shaun and made her next stop.
The house on the wrong side of the Kensington Expressway had a solid beam atop sharp jointed rafters, a harsh triangular crown that stood out from the rest of the neighborhood where the houses ranged from shabby at the edges to one wall left standing. Jenny looked up and down the street as she grabbed her bags and got out of the car in front of the house, searching for signs that anyone else was on the block before she locked up her car, walked up to the house and unlocked the heavy iron gating that fenced off the porch.
“Nana,” she called as she opened the gate, then closed it behind her as she stood on the porch. “It’s me, Jenny, Nana.”
“Oh good,” she heard from inside. “You were a little late and I thought you got delayed somewhere.”
Jenny unlocked the front door and entered the house, going to the kitchen where Nana had a deck of cards laid out in front of her on the table. Her brown hair was spotted with silver and gray, the wrinkles around her eyes barely hidden by the glasses she wore.
“So how’s the solitaire coming?” she asked Nana.
“I’ve lost more than won today. Otherwise it’s been a good day.”
She kissed Nana atop the head. “I have milk, bread, the usual,” she said as she put away the groceries she brought in.
“You’re a dear. You still like rum and coke?”
“Sure, thanks. Same places?”
Nana nodded, and Jenny got the bottle of rum and chipped coffee mug from their places atop the sink over and just to the right of the Virgin Mary statue, combined them with a can of soda from the fridge and took a seat opposite her.
Jenny waited for Nana to finish her hand; when she did, Nana asked her, “Still with the neon hair color?”
“Got a good reason why not?”
“Eh, no one’s hiring, there’s not colleges to go to anymore, you’re not seriously looking to marry anyone, so no. At least you’re keeping out of trouble?”
Jenny shrugged and took a sip of her rum and coke.
“Your mom would be worried if she ever saw you like that.”
“You ever hear from Mom?”
Nana sighed. “Not since she left us thirteen years ago. When I was your age, a high school diploma just wasn’t enough, which makes it even worse now for you.”
“And without college, what’s the point?”
“You can’t go somewhere else? Just because I stayed, you don’t have to. I had lots of friends when I was growing up that left Buffalo the first chance they could.”
“So where’d they go?” Jenny asked.
“A lot of them to New York, of course.”
“Which we ran from after Alejandro flooded Brooklyn, remember?”
Nana waived her hand. “So you don’t go to New York, Washington, Miami, any of those flooded places. California’s still kind of nice, last I heard.”
“Maybe the parts not next to Mexico. I heard when they’re not trying to get us out of their country, they come north to blow things up and try to make us roll back over to our side of the border.”
“Anywhere’s got to be better than here, Jenny.”
“I don’t think so,” she replied to Nana. “The east coast floods every year, the middle and south never really recovered from that big drought, and where it’s not too dry or wet the rest of the country is broke, scared and run by crooks. China’s a prison camp, and Russia’s like Mexico before American troops filled the streets trying to calm it down. I can’t afford go to India or Brazil or Korea, and since the war Canada is just not going to let me in. About the only place worse is what passes for countries in Africa, so no, everywhere is just as bad as Buffalo.”
Nana just shook her head. “I’m not going to talk you down, dear, but unless you have something to do, this is not the place for you.”
“I can find something to do.”
“I mean something real, not anything that could get you locked up or killed.” She added under her breath, “And on land too.”
All content Copyright © 2011 James Ryan