A quirky little piece based on my (naughty) grandmother. Original title was “The Philosophy of Carrots.”
Lolita had no children, no grandchildren either. It didn’t matter: she was the town’s grandmother, and everyone knew it.
Grandmother was a haughty, full-busted woman with red hair and a scowl about her that could scare a scarecrow. She wore blue and purple and slaughtered a pig just as quickly as she drank “una copa” of wine. She wasn’t afraid to chuckle during church. She gave cognac to the turkeys. She smoked a pipe, had an evil eye at poker, and was caught cheating on more than one occasion.
One day she presented a large carrot to the neighbor’s wife. It was the largest carrot Lolita had ever grown, quite a prize, and the neighbor was amazed at its grandiosity.
“Ooh, this will taste good in stew. What a shame my husband is out of town.”
“Ay, my poor Conchinina,” said Grandmother. “How long is he out of town?”
“I’m not sure.”
“How can you not be sure?”
The neighbor looked away. “I think Pedro might have left me.”
“Ay, my poor Conchinina,” said Grandmother, clicking her tongue. “But don’t you worry. I’ll bring you more food. Everything will be alright.”
“What will I do without him?”
“To hell with that man!”
“Yes, maybe you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right. Besides, now that you have that carrot, you won’t need a husband anymore!”
When Pedro came back, he was locked out of the house.
He was a frilly, awkward man with yellow eyes and a long, sloping torso. He carried with him the scent of whiskey, and Conchinina didn’t want him back. When it became clear that she would not unlock the door, he became tearful, sobbing loudly and caused quite a bit of commotion in town.
“Young Pedro is drunk,” said the neighbors. “She’s kicked him out again, this time for good. They say she’s having an affair.”
Pedro sat in the park for three days, drinking whisky, peeing behind the kiosk, and cuddling an injured pigeon. Grandmother finally stopped at her neighbor’s door: “The man is repentant, Conchinina. Why don’t you open up and let him in?”
The neighbor refused, and Pedro was left without a home.
Lolita nodded to herself, grabbed a broom, and finally took the poor man home with her. “Your job will be to pick carrots and sweep the barn once a week,” she said, giving him the broom, and that day Pedro became part of her household.
Now a household of two.
He was forty years her junior, but he loved Grandmother terribly. He sobered up, sat about the house quietly, disappearing into the walls for his shyness, and every so often he remembered to sweep the barn. He did an awful job. The old woman caught him sweeping chicken feathers under the stairs four times, and she eventually took the broom away. He was useless around the house too, but did okay with the carrots, and Grandmother liked him anyway.
A month after Pedro came to live with the old lady, she gathered her neighbors and said goodbye. She wrote her own obituary and died in style, with incense, a drag of marijuana, and a pot-roast dinner.
“She was happiest when drunk and starting town scandal,” she wrote of herself, “and, yes, she loved Pedro dearly.” That was it.
After the funeral, Pedro refused to bury her body. The dead woman lay in her living room a full week before the stench seeped out the doorway.
The neighbors complained.
Pedro did his best to defend his situation: “All we need is a refresher…breath refresher…air-freshener here in the house,” he argued, “just need to play mean spray the place with bleach, that’s all.”
Town Hall took over and Lolita was buried that same afternoon.
Pedro’s world changed. The household was empty. The animals disappeared. The carrots, too. Grandmother’s scandal, the clothes that never matched, and the endless laughter in church, it had all come to end.
Poor Pedro, he died a short time later, a broken heart.
The rumor was he accidentally ate some of Grandmother’s pot-roast, which had gone off since her death. But it was romantic enough, and even Conchinina went to his funeral.
Alex Natalian is a penname for psychiatrist KRR.