A Short Episode, Youth

by Matt Ambrose

When Matt Ambrose was still a young man, he spent a lot of time thinking about his grandparents--their health, their approval, and what inheritance he might receive from them. He wasn't a cold person or calculating in any fundamental regard; however, the thought of what might remain for him of their long, rich lives was impossible to ignore. Books, money, genealogical records, property, rotting photo albums. There were more of some of these things than others, but they were all, in their various quantities, important to him.

One spring, during a break in graduate school, Matt flew to Los Angeles, rented a white, American-made sedan, and drove from the airport to his maternal grandmother's home in a dismal quarter of the city. It was a managed-care home for the aged, made to look Edwardian. Most of the units had windows that looked into a courtyard of roses, birds of paradise, waxy-leaved shrubs and impatiens. It was a nice place if not for the patterned carpets, faded prints of bad art, and the constant smell of burned coffee. Matt's grandmother had despised it from the first day he deposited her there. Only rarely did she accuse him, however.

This day he found her in the dining room, at the empty, stainless steel buffet counter, reviewing the evening menu. She was standing with a straight-backed man in a suit and tie. She looked fresh in a cotton dress Matt did not remember, printed with blue and red flowers. She was not a thin woman, and age had bent her, but she did look fresh. Matt approached, was greeted warmly and introduced to the tall stranger. Ed. After several minutes of awkward questions and answers, it was decided that Matt should take Ed and his grandmother to the movies. He called Grauman's Chinese Theater, beloved of his grandmother, scribbled down a few show times in the little book he kept with him always. Ed preferred family dramas while Matt's grandmother wanted to see something harrowing and bloody. It was easy enough to find a film they were both happy to see.

A few months later, Matt received news via his half-sister. Grandmother and Ed had broken up. "I guess the sex wasn't up to snuff," she snorted. "More likely the difference in their ages," Matt thought.