I have a short story I've been working on, and nobody at school will give it the proper machete treatment. So here's the thread's inaugural piece of writing:
A few times every year, my mother used to take my sister and I to see our great-grandmother at the nursing home. Mom always made sure we saw her before we left for sleepaway camp every summer; I got the impression that she was never sure if Great-Grandma Frances would still be around when we got back. Though I was a little uncomfortable around Grandma Frances (her teeth wobbled when she talked, after all, and her apartment smelled funny, like talcum powder and old cheese), I never really minded seeing her. I remembered little of the years when she was still active and alert, but I had heard enough family history to know that we were only seeing the tail end of a full and exciting life.
The real worry was my great-aunt-- my mother's mother's sister, Biena. Unlike Grandma Frances, Aunt Biena had always been a little vague and loopy. She had never held a real job, never been to college, never learned to drive a car or pay the rent or even how to cook, which was simply unheard-of in my family. My motehr's relatives paid the rent for two apartments on opposite sides of the nursing room hall: one for Grandma Frances, where she and Aunt Biena spent most of their time, and a second, little-used apartment for Aunt Biena. I only ever saw the place once.
Aunt Biena had asked my sister and I to come over and visit with her. We walked across the narrow hallway and into the other apartment, where we were surprised to find rooms filled with boxes, many stacked higher than I could reach. We wandered around the narrow spaces between boxes while Aunt Biena bustled around the little kitchenette, fussing over food we would politely refuse.
I asked my mother, later, how long Aunt Biena had been living in that apartment, wondering is she had just moved in and hadn't yet unpacked. My mother sighed, and, with a look on her face I could not understand, said "Years."
When I finally got up the nerve to open one of the boxes (expecting treasure, perhaps, or the bones of long-lost second cousins), I was disappointed to find nothing but a stack of brittle yellow newspapers, their headlines announcing the election of a president I had never heard of. But under them, I made my real discovery. I found a tarnished silver compact, larger than my hand, with spidery initials engraved on the lid. I opened it, and found that a trace of powder still clung to the edges, covering the mirror with a fine layer of flesh-colored dust. It smelled faintly of perfume.
The rest of the box was less exciting. Old magazines, dead batteries, empty shampoo bottles-- Aunt Biena, it seemed, kept *everything.*
I had eagerly turned to another box, which was labeled PLATES but looked to be full of leather-bound photo albums and 45 RPM Pat Boone records, when my sister announced that she had to go to the bathroom. Rather than use Aunt Biena's (what if it, too, was full of boxes?) we trooped back across the hall to Grandma Frances's apartment, the compact in my hands. I presented my find to my mother, who prononced it real silver, and told me the engraved initials were my great-grandmother's. It had been a gift from my great-grandfather in the thirties, Mom said, when her own mother was a little younger than me.
I was appropriately impressed by the compact's age and value, so Aunt Biena said that I could keep it. Then she gave me some (allegedly fun) activity sheets from the supermarket. We went home a little while after that; I haven't been in Aunt Biena's apartment since then.
My great-grandmother died a few years ago, and now Aunt Biena lives alone. To my knowledge, she still hasn't unpacked her boxes.