Preserving Grandma by Georgiana Nelsen

Paint the nursery walls mint, maybe with white trim, the color of the butter mints the church served after your wedding. Get a quilt with circus animals marching around the border and spread it across the mattress of a wobbly IKEA crib. Hang stencils of pastel giraffes and comic monkeys.

Put your Grandma’s wedding dress on a padded hanger and hang it from a golden hook on the east wall. The Chantilly lace may be yellowed and half of the seed pearls that decorated it may be missing, but that will remind your wife of the yellow-toothed smile Grandma shared only with you. If your wife asks if you’d like to have a christening gown made from it instead, scoff. But ask the dress anyway to make your wife think she has input. After that, speak only to the baby in her belly, and call it Grandma’s name, Mildred. Tell your wife they should name the baby that, even if it is a boy.

Grandma never liked your wife, and always pretended to be hard of hearing around her. Grandma’s hearing was fine. Your wife tried, bringing her gifts: cookies, books, soft blankets because you’ve convinced her you love them both. Your Grandma said your wife would be good breeding stock, with her wide hips and soft breasts, but that was about it.

When you got married, you walked Grandma down the aisle yourself, before taking your place at the altar. It was important to establish your priorities. Grandma wore the old wedding dress, and no one other than the bride even flinched. They were all used to Grandma. She was one of a kind.

Grandma grinned her gap-toothed smile right away. She knew she was winning. She sat on the front row pew and smoothed her dress as though it were brand new, scattering more seed pearls with percussive echoes as they bounced on church’s marble floor.

You got the call at midnight after you’d been married two years. When you came home with tears in your eyes, your wife did as she was expected and offered sex to comfort you.

Your wife shouldn’t have been surprised when she started counting the days and weeks from the red asterisk on the calendar. When you bend to speak to her belly, the baby always responds.

When it’s time, go into the nursery and ask Mildred to dance. Gently take the wedding dress from its hanger, and place one lacey sleeve on your shoulder, the other in your palm. Laugh and twirl with her. When your wife gets up to see what is going on, continue in the waltz. The baby will kick hard, and the membranes will break. Soon your wife will know that it was her fault you were separated, even by the membranes of life.

It won’t be long now.

Georgiana Nelsen is a Texas and Michigan business lawyer. She writes flash, short stories and is working on a Southern gothic novel-in-flash. Her fiction has appeared in Tiferet Journal, Bending Genres, Cheap Pop, the National Flash Flood and others and was longlisted in the Wigleaf Top 50 in 2019.