After Hours

by Cynthia Jones

We are driving to the bank.  My seven-year-old frame is too small for my feet to reach the floor.  The windows are rolled down and air flows through the car.  It’s a cool night and the sky is darkish orange.  I love these nights.  Grandpa is driving.  A cold Schmidt in one hand, his other one on the wheel.  He’s in his usual flannel and t-shirt.  I adore him.  Next to him is grandma with her red babushka tied neatly under her chin.  Her hands shake from the onset of something mom keeps referring to as Parkinson’s, whatever that is.  I’m sitting right behind her.  I have a clear view of grandpa’s face in the rear-view mirror.  To me he looks like John Wayne.  My nine-year old brother is next to me in the back seat.
We’ve finally arrived.  Grandpa opens the trunk of the car as I race my brother to the locked doors of the bank.  It’s dark inside.  Grandpa, keys jingling, inserts the metal into the lock.  As grandpa hauls in his mops and cleaning rags, I run upstairs to the open chute, a slide that runs from the second floor to the first.  Its silver tube as wide as me.  The metal is cold against my skin and I climb in just like recess at school.  I hug my knees to my chest and let go landing into a mountain of shredded paper.  Just then, grandma comes to me.  Her trembling hand reaches out to mine.  I take it gladly.  It’s a warm hand, a tender hand.  She leads me to the teller’s window where the lollipops are kept.  I choose the orange one tonight.  Before she sits me in a corner to go about her cleaning, I glimpse the empty desks and imagine well-heeled important people.  I settle next to my brother and eventually we fall asleep.
Grandpa carries my brother and me to the car, one by one. I’m half-awake. I dreamily think about what lies ahead, of the scrubbed-clean scent of grandma’s sheets and her tucking-in ritual on the fold-out sofa with grandpa nearby as his favorite westerns play out on a black and white television set.  Lost in anticipation, the car motors on and I don’t see the tired look on grandpa’s face.  I only hear the pop-top clack as he opens another can of beer.

Cynthia Jones’ work has appeared in Under the Sun, Spokesman-Review, Sniff & Barkens, and elsewhere. She received her MFA in 2018 from Antioch Los Angeles. Cynthia is working on a book about the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state. She is a writer and lawyer living in Seattle.

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