The short-haired woman with the cropped salt-and-pepper hair struggled up from her comfortable chair in the living room and shuffled painfully to the front door of the farmhouse. Her short legs and long upper body were strangely out of proportion, as if someone had forgotten to lengthen her bones when she was growing up.
“Yes?” she inquired, peering shortsightedly at the young man standing quietly at the door.
“Oh, it’s you!” she smiled at the visitor. “Come on in, momma’s waiting for you.”
The livingroom was a shrine to a past era: sepia portraits of long dead ancestors, dusty, chipped porcelain figurines on the mantelpiece, and faded framed prints on the walls lent an air of genteel decay to the room. It smelled musty in there, of old woman – a mixture of lily-of-the-valley talcum powder and old underwear – and the visitor held his breath for a few seconds, then expelled it in a rush. He hated visiting. It was a chore.
The young man pecked the wrinkled cheek of the older woman whose skin felt like aged soft chamois, and he smiled.
“Edith, how are you?” he said very loudly.
She nodded, “Yes, I am, thank you!”
“Mavis, bring a whiskey!” she commanded her elderly daughter.
“Momma, it’s not yet time to tipple! You know what the doc said!” Her sing-song country accent sounded faintly accusatory.
“Oh hush now, just bring me that drink and bring sonny – what’s yer name, hon? I forgot…”
“It’s Jakey, Edi, Jakey!”
“Bring him a soda.”
Jakey turned to his Mavis who stood hesitantly in the doorway.
“I’ll have a whiskey too,” he said.
The woman disappeared, her thighs making a swishing noise as they rubbed together on the cheap polyester capris. He heard her go into the kitchen and then turned to focus on Edith.
“Have you signed that paper yet, Edi?”
“What was that?” she cupped her hand behind her ear. “What?”
“The deed of transfer, Edi, to put the farm into my name…”
Mavis returned, handed her aged mother a glass, who swigged the drink down in three straight gulps.
“My daddy loved me, y’know,” Edi mumbled. “He didn’t want me handing the land over to Jakey, remember?”
Jakey narrowed his eyes and sipped at his glass delicately, as if he were a southern gentleman calling on his girl.
“Never understood how the brakes failed on that old Buick,” Edi mumbled and then grabbed at her mouth as her dentures slipped.
“Jakey, you shouldn’t wear her out, you know how quickly she tires of company,” Mavis said, exasperated by his persistence.
“When did you die, Jakey? Why do you always come here same time, every day? Is there no rest for you in the place you disappear to every day? You break my heart, you do!” Gram complained, her voice beginning to slur. “If only you hadn’t been so greedy!”
“Momma, daddy died sixty years ago, don’t you remember?”
She turned to look at the young man, but the chair was empty.
“Damn ghosts,” she thought.