And I Smile
By Andrew McCormick
Noise. Familiar noise. I blink. And I smile.
My clothes feel tight. My neck hurts. Many voices. Laughter, I don’t know why they laugh. Music, nice music, I like it, but I can’t follow the words. I’ve heard the music before, somewhere. I can’t remember.
The chair is comfortable. It’s soft, I feel the material between my fingers, and it’s soft. She pats my hand from time to time. I like that. She smiles at me and I smile.
The room is big, very big, bigger than the other place, I think. People walk around. Some look familiar. I smile all the time. It’s easier. People come up to me, they nod their heads a lot, and smile. I like seeing them; they’re having a good time. I like seeing them, even the ones who talk slow to me, like I’m hard of hearing or not smart. I’m not stupid. I think. It’s hard to put thoughts together, I don’t know why. She has told me why, I know she has, but I don’t remember. It hurts sometimes to think. It wasn’t like that before. Was it?
People dressed so nice, like on TV. They’re happy, I think. They smile. I smile, too. It’s easier. People don’t ask questions when you smile. Not so much.
The food is good. I eat the sweet things. I turn to her and tell her that the round things are tasty and good. My words don’t sound right to me. She smiles back at me.
“That’s right, that’s good,” she says.
That’s wrong, that’s not what I said. I frown. I want to scream and she pats my hand. I feel better and eat another round thing.
A young girl dressed in white stops at the table. I know her. She makes me smile without thinking first. She pats my hand.
“How are you doing, Grandpa?” she says.
It makes me feel good when she calls me “Grandpa.” I think “Grandpa” is a good thing, but I’m not sure. But she smiles and I smile.
She says something about me, to me, if I’m all right away from the home. I remember my home, I think. It felt good. There was a chair, out in the yard, I think, where I could sit and see blue sky and watch birds. The young girl smiles at me. She has blond hair underneath a white hat, a white hat that’s different from the hat the nurse wears. Her smile makes me think of Christmas and of colored eggs in a green lawn. She’s beautiful. Then a happy young man takes her away. I’ve seen her before, I know I have, and I smile at her as she walks away.
The woman next to me holds my hand and she watches her leave, too. The woman smells like roses.
The music stops. People start moving around. I don’t like all that moving, but she pats my hand. I look out a window. It’s dark outside, I don’t like the dark. As I stare at the window, someone stares back at me. His hair is gray, his skin wrinkled. I look at his eyes. They scare me, his eyes, the way they stare back at me, wide open with nothing behind them. She pats my hand and I smile. So does the man in the window. I feel better. He looks like a friend.
There’s a sudden sound, a loud noise from in front of me. I jump a little in my chair.
She says, “It’s all right, Milton, it’s just the band.” I shake.
A man dressed in a black suit stands and holds up a glass. He says too many words, too fast, and people laugh, so I smile and laugh, too. Then he stops and raises his glass, I think, to two people seated at the front table. One is that girl in white. The man says, slowly, “To the happy couple. May they give each other much happiness. To Greg and Amber!”
Amber. Amber. That’s the girl; I know, now. She was very little, but now she’s big. I look around as people applaud. The room is big, with an open ceiling made of wooden beams holding metal chandeliers filled with light. Round tables dot the room, except for on the brown dance floor. White linen cover the tables. It feels good, to look at things and know what they are. Thin slices of roast beef on the china plates, and they’re next to white potatoes with brown skin. People, familiar people, sit at the tables, talking and laughing. My brother sits at the next table. Long ago, he dressed as a clown for Halloween. He doesn’t catch my eye. Amber is the girl, she was very little but she’s now dressed in white.
“Amber,” I say out loud. The woman who pats my hand turns to me.
“Yes, our granddaughter. Her name is Amber and she’s getting married,” she says. Her eyes sparkle, or maybe they’re wet, as she looks at me. She is looking at me, like she did before, when she was dressed in white.
“Margaret. Maggie,” I say to her. And I smile.
“Yes, Miltie, yes,” she says. I stare at her, she makes me warm and happy, she is so beautiful.
“Catalina was so nice,” I tell her. She cries.
I look down at the white linen. I finger it, it feels soft. I pick up a round food and put it in my mouth. It tastes very good. And I smile.
Top photo "50's Wedding" courtesy of
Andrew McCormick (aka Frank Riley) has had six stories published in local and regional journals. He is a former carnival barker, toy store salesman, and casino pit boss, now working in a small rural post office sellin stamps and boxing letters.
Bottom photo "Hands V" courtesy of George Crux.