Voice (20)

As people get older they get more alike in character and appearance and could all be leading the same life. Or almost. Shut up in the little house opposite the fairgrounds, Aunt Jenny talks to the hot-water faucet that drips, and the kitchen drawer that has a tendency to stick. IMG_8503She also sings hymns mostly, in a high quavering voice: “That Old Rugged Cross” and “Art Thou Weary, Art Thou Sad” and “How glorious the mansions be/ Where thy redeemed shall dwell with the …” Without meaning to, she has grown heavy but she eats so little that short of starving to death there doesn’t seem much she can do about it. . . .When she gets into bed and the springs creak under her weight, she moans with the pleasure of lying stretched out on an object that understands her so well.. . . .She is full of fears, which are nursed by the catastrophes she reads about in the paper. The front and back doors are locked day and night against bad boys, a man with a mask over the lower part of his face, pneumonia, a fall. There is, even so, a something buoyant in her nature that makes people pleased to see her coming toward them on the street, and usually the stop to talk to her and hear about the catastrophes. She winds up the conversation by saying cheerfully, “Life is no joke.” What sensible person wouldn’t agree with her.

— William Maxwell
from So Long, See You Tomorrow


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