Mom wanted Grandma to get home before dark, so I agreed to take her. I said: “Grandma, I think it’s time we go home.” She scoffed, said there was no reason to run off so soon and, like usual, she galabanted around the living room table and talked to everyone for another ten minutes. We eventually left. I held onto her as we moved toward my car. I clicked her seatbelt in and turned up the music. It was “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles. George Martin’s trumpets roared and she began singing the lyrics as if she’d always known them, even though she’d never liked rock ‘n’ roll music. I like this, she said. We all live in a yellow submarine, she sang.
So I drove her home to the dilapidated ivory house on Warren Burton three miles away, but I took the long way across town past the places she once told me all about. Places she said she’d outlive. Places she swore she’d never die in. We all live in a yellow submarine, she sang. I drove her through Hicktown and down the highway. I drove her past Hurd’s Market after it burned up. Past the parking lot where her high school once stood. Past the house where a former homecoming queen who croaked after huffing computer cleaner lived. I drove her past the football field. I drove her past Mike Tyson’s mansion near Dead Branch Creek where the grass was higher than the iron fence wrapped around the property. We all live in a yellow submarine, she sang. Past the house where a kid killed his mom and stepdad. I drove her past the open meadow beyond her woods we’d treasure hunt in.
She said she used to walk through those woods with her grandson. Said there’d been mason jars buried beneath the earth near the creek. Said they were still out there for her to find. Said her husband Roy had left them for her. She looked out over the trees and said: “Have I ever taken you through those woods?”
I took her toward her house and she began telling me about how Roy was going to be upset that she’d left the house unlocked, and how he probably heard her tossing and turning at night and needed her to rest, and how she knew he’d be by her bedside. She mentioned something about him cleaning up the yard. Then I told her that Roy was dead.
I know he is, she said.
In that moment, I wasn’t sure if she was really losing her mind or just pretending to be. Older folks in my family used that as an excuse all of the time, especially if they’d misplaced something around the house.
And again we passed by the place where Mike Tyson lived for a few years and kept cages of tigers and played pickup basketball against the varsity team. We all live in a yellow submarine, she sang. I told her I’d spent the previous day going through her greeting cards and found her one to send to the cousins in Michigan.
My grandma loved this town and everyone in it. But all of them are dead now. The place was all different now. There were a bunch of cornfields with cows ripe for tipping. The roads were still bad with a bunch of bends. For a while, you had to be careful at night because of the Amish driving down the road. The medians between the highway lanes had tall grass growing so high you couldn’t see the oncoming traffic. There weren’t any of the old places she mentioned. There wasn’t a big school building she used to teach in. There wasn’t anything.
There was only a big ivory-colored house everyone stopped at and the grass was filled with snakes and dog shit and there were Playboys hidden in the garage.
When we got to her house, I helped her inside. I told her to eat a danish before bed. I led her into the living room. I put a greeting card on the table by her chair. I kissed her forehead and told her I had to get home.
“Thank you for bringing me home, Hunter,” she said. I didn’t tell her that wasn’t my name.
So I left and heard her calling for me. I didn’t turn back. I wasn’t even sure who I’d be speaking to if I did. She followed me to the front door and stood waving as I drove my car down the driveway and onto the street. My last glimpse of her house had her picking up sticks near the door. Everyone who said they’d never die here have died here and I could hear church bells down the road screaming like trumpets.
We all live in a yellow submarine, I sang.