My aunt lived in the jewelry store. We ate lunch on the glass cases, admiring the gleam of diamonds while I picked the celery from my egg salad. Every afternoon, we visited Mom, who was sewing a tent, which every woman will want when the world falls apart.
The restrooms were much cleaner than you’d think, although we dreamed of hot baths.
When we lived in the mall we gave up buying things: whenever we wanted to crisp a piece of bread we had only to go to the toaster aisle. For entertainment, there was the wall of TVs at the electronics store, fifty screens with a confusing game of soccer or the giant head of a man trying to sell us a set of knives.
The sound system played nothing but Carly Simon, which my sister and I deplored. But my cousin felt that Carly had helped her through hard times in her life and that even in the mall she might need to hear “You’re So Vain” at any moment. My daughter did Tarot readings in the old JC Penneys, sitting professionally behind the defunct register. The cards foretold the past as accurately as you might imagine. She offered a receipt if needed for taxes.
My mother and my aunt thought most often about the old times. They kept these memories to themselves but we knew when they were remembering things like backyards and mailboxes. I admitted to missing the sky, but would go no further.
We thought at times that an official history should be written, complete with fold-out maps and a CD, but no one wanted to do the research.
My sister and I had our own place in the bookstore, for books are insulating, as everyone knows. At night, sheltered by our page-thickened walls, we read in the glow of a flashlight, our heads pillowed on paperbacks, the book roof protecting us from the pale struts and panels of the dropped and deadly ceiling.
Mary Grimm has had two books published, Left to Themselves (novel) and Stealing Time (story collection) – both by Random House. Currently, she is working on a dystopian novel about oldsters. She teaches fiction writing at Case Western Reserve University.
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