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Excerpt from

Crystal Vision
Cath Schaff-Stump

My granddaughter sits on a soft wool blanket in the middle of the living room. She's uncommon quiet for a toddler, stares into the wall like she's trying to see through a window. Her stare lasts long enough for me to finish my Bud. As I swig that last gulp out of the can, she snaps back to the present like a rubber band pulls her back to our house.

I am a young grandma. Rita had Tori when she was sixteen and the three of us did just fine. Tori waddles to me, her pudgy hand gummy with saliva and graham cracker crumbs. I wipe it off with a pink Kleenex after putting my empty on a coaster. She totters back to the blanket. I paint that goofy grandma grin on my face. My baby can do nothing wrong.

Really, it's more like Tori is my daughter than my granddaughter. Joe, my boyfriend, thinks I should buy Tori a little leather jacket to match mine. I think that is the idea of a total pothead. I like dressing her in bright colors, pink dresses and bright sleepers. She loves driving, just like me. Last spring, I bought a sidecar for my bike. It rides low to the ground, a smoky egg with a rod that attaches to my Harley. From inside Tori can see everything through the tinted plexiglass door. We never go on the highway, just on the paved county road behind our development when we ride. Safety is concern number one.

Tori's little hands try to pull my new beer off the coffee table. In the summer heat it's left a ring of sweat. “No honey,” I say. “Not for you.” My granddaughter doesn't drink. Tori's just experiencing the world the way little kids do, dragging everything to themselves. I empty the can, then put it back in the box, out of her way. Six in there.

I pop a new can open. A six-pack doesn't make much of a dent anymore, but I know my limit. I watch Tori over the can's rim. She falls on her diapered butt. “Good one, sweetie.” I drain about half the can, bitter and fizzy.

There's Tori's spooky stare again. Me, Rita and Tori, we all have those spooky pale eyes, you know, the ones that are clear blue and don't look like any color almost. Of course, my eyes aren't freaky unless I'm looking in a mirror. Rita spooks me out in pictures all over the house.

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