01 02 03 Prone to Wander: Chapter one: Anna 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Chapter one: Anna

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The only time I have seen a dead body was at grandma Hattie’s wake. Her body was in the casket, and she had on pink lipstick on her lips and powder on her face (grandma never wore make up). Her skin was doughy looking and hard and cold, and it just wasn’t her. It wasn’t, even though it was. Dad said grandma’s soul was gone—in heaven, but we still had to put her body in the ground. When I looked at her, I just knew she wasn’t really there. People made a line and took turns kissing her forehead and touching her hands. Grandpa stood by her head and people hugged him too, and he had tears that kept slipping down his cheeks. I kept looking away from him because Grandma would have thought all this was weird. She wouldn’t want people crying like that, especially not Grandpa. She loved to joke around and play pranks, and as I watched her in the casket, I kept thinking she was going to pop up, start laughing and say, “Gotcha!” That’s why it was hard for me to cry that day. I wanted to, but grandma Hattie would say, “Stop yer crying Anna. Quit wasting time. Now, what should we make for dinner? How about pork chops yer grandpa picked up in town? Come help me and we can make pumpkin dump cake for dessert. Come on now. Help yer grandma.” Grandma Hattie couldn’t focus on one thing at a time. If she was born today, she would probably be on ADD medication, if she even remembered to take it, which she wouldn’t. She could never sit still for long, unless she was eating. She loved to eat, especially sweet stuff like cakes and pies. Sometimes when Elizabeth and I stayed with her for the night, she would let us eat chocolate chip cookies and butter pecan ice cream for dinner and then again for breakfast. 

“Now don’t you go home and tell her mama. She doesn’t really need to know. Grandpa doesn’t need to know either,” she would say with a wink.

Later, Elizabeth would take me aside, “Should we tell mom and dad?”
“No, Liz.”
“I don’t like secrets.”
“There are good secrets and bad secrets, Liz. This one is a good one. It’s not hurting no one.”
“Then why can’t we tell if it’s not hurting anyone?”

Elizabeth drove me crazy like that. She believed in rules and her conscience overwhelmed her most days. One day she skipped cross-country practice after school to hang out with a boy she liked. Later, she cried and cried because she felt so bad. She woke mom and dad up in the middle of the night to confess her “sin.” She said she had to, that God told her to, and the weight had been lifted off. Elizabeth never got in trouble and adults believed her, especially teachers. 

Anyway, Grandma’s body was the only dead body I had seen. I didn’t worry too much about seeing grandma’s body because it just wasn’t her. The second dead body I saw was different, though. It was yesterday.
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