“The Sowder Sisters”

Ruby was fine until she gassed herself. I must of told her a hundred times, “If you don’t keep that stove lit, Sister, you’re going to blow yourself sky high.” But oh no, ninety-four years old, stubborn as sin, never once paid me the simple courtesy of listening to a single word I said and this despite the fact that I graduated Branch Normal and know a thing or two–and what did Ruby do?–but work all her life for the telephone company. So what did I smell when I came by her house last time but gas and after I covered my mouth and nose with a tea towel and opened all the windows and turned the stove off, what did I see but Ruby, sitting straight up on the commode, naked as a jay bird, biggety as you please, scolding a black man, a fat lady, and a little boy — three people only she could see. “Go long now,” she was telling them, “You don’t belong here!” and she was still shooing them off even after 9-1-1 came and took her away. Turned out the gas didn’t hurt her lungs none, Ruby’s healthy as a horse, nothing wrong with her body, it’s her mind. So now she lives with me. She don’t like the cats and that’s all right, I can keep the cats in the cellar, but keeping Ruby inside is another matter entirely and lately I’ve had to tie her to the bed. Mostly she just lies there but sometimes she talks. Once she said, “Why you got that big black spider in your hair?” and even though I knew there was no big black spider in my hair, I about dropped her supper tray and Ruby winked at me and smirked like she used to do. Yesterday she pointed at the ceiling and said, “Why you got rain raining inside your house?” and when I looked up to see if the roof leaked, she laughed. Ruby has a real mean laugh. She’s seven years older than me, made me wash the Packard every Saturday but never once let me drive it, kissed Ned Nichols at my picnic dinner, always said she asked for a monkey but got a sister instead. So tonight when she asked me to take the gum out of my mouth and give her half, I said No. “Even if I had any gum in my mouth,” I told her, “which I do not, I would not give you so much as a taste,” and I was about to slam out and leave her when Ruby laughed again, only this time her laugh wasn’t mean, it was scared, and I sat down beside her and held her hand and we sat in the dark like that for a long long time.
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Molly Giles

About Molly Giles

I have published 4 story collections and a novel and have recent work in Corium, Cog, The Barcelona Review and Zyzzyva.