Come Saturday Morning
by Holly Robinson
Annie parks her grandfather's 1985 black Buick Rivieria in front of the brown and green bungalow set back from the street. She grabs her backpack and her keys and, opening the car door, steps onto the curb, where the air smells like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies: warm, gooey sugary brown. Annie's breath catches in her throat, her heartbeat soars, sweat beads gently at her hairline. She leans against the car and wills herself to pay attention: deep breath in, exhale slowly, deep breath in, exhale slowly. She knows the routine.
Annie peers into the window and then opens the front door of her grandmother's house, calling "Hello" as she does. When Annie was little, she told her friends that her grandmother, her bubbe, lived in this mansion where the front door was big enough and wide enough for a giant to walk through. Annie's laughter at this memory chimes softly.
"Bubbe, I'm here," she calls again.
This Saturday morning, Annie finds her grandmother sitting on the velvet couch in the living room, coat and hat on, her gnarled fingers clasped tightly around a leather pocketbook that is larger than her lap. The television is on, the volume blaring, broadcasting her grandmother's favorite game show. Annie leans over and kisses her grandmother on the cheek, her skin as dry and wrinkly as the skin of an onion.
"It's time to go, Bubbe. You ready?"
"In a minute, in a minute." Her grandmother's brown eyes never leave the television, never look into Annie's green ones.
Annie sighs, walks out of the living room and into the kitchen, half expecting to find a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies on the table pushed up against the far wall. But the room is cool, the table bare except for an unopened letter from her grandfather to add to the pile. She sits heavily in one of the Windsor chairs and closes her eyes.
Annie is 9, maybe 10, and she is visiting her grandparents for the weekend. On Saturday mornings, Annie and her grandmother bake chocolate chip cookies. Standing side by side, they measure and mix and melt and stir and drop the dough onto a cookie pan, lick the spoons clean and set the timer for the cookies to bake. About this time, Annie's grandfather comes in and asks when the cookies will be ready. Her bubbe says, "10 minutes, same as last time" and her grandfather offers to take Annie into the bathroom to wash the chocolate from her face and the flour from her hair.
Annie clutches her grandmother's sleeve, screaming silently and shaking her head.
"Go with your grandfather." Her grandmother's brown eyes never leave the timer, never look into Annie's green ones.
Together they go into the pink bathroom, the one next to the kitchen, and Annie's grandfather puts his finger to his lips and goes "shush" before he takes off all of Annie's clothes. Annie shudders, squeezes her eyes shut, tears sliding down her flour-covered face, and follows the smell of baking cookies into the kitchen to watch the timer.
When Annie's grandfather is done washing, stroking, probing, he hands Annie her clothes and again places his profane finger to his lips.
"Those cookies sure smell good," her grandfather says when they are back in the kitchen. "They ready yet?"
Her grandmother, her bubbe, scowls.
This ritual continues until Annie is twelve or so, as tall as her grandfather and "too old to be baking cookies with my bubbe anymore," says Annie.
Annie rouses herself, remembers why she has come. She pushes herself up from the table. Her grandmother is asleep on the couch, coat and hat still on, pocketbook still in her lap, tipped over like a porcelain statute. She is snoring gently and a small amount of liquid has pooled underneath her cheek, leaving a dark circle on the velvet couch. Annie kisses her grandmother on the cheek a second time, whispers, "Maybe next Saturday we'll go see him," and leaves the house, easing the door behind her.
Holly lives in Portland Oregon, where she write laws during the day and short stories during the night, the former to feed her children, the latter to feed her soul.