I watch Paul on the other side of the room, the way he tucks his head against the phone.
"Dad... Dad it's you." As he listens his hands make quick circles in the air. "Just tell me."
I see him flinch. He cups his hands over the phone. "Grandma," he says.
He comes back to the bed with the story we never stop telling: How It Happened. She caught pneumonia, died worrying whether her family would be with her in Heaven.
Dad always said what a freak I was to her. You can imagine."
Paul is not on speaking terms with God, the family god; he addresses his prayers to Indian goddesses: Durga on her lion, Sarasvati with her sitar on the swan, Kali stomping on corpses. And, just as incomprehensibly, he loves me, a man.
Mormons and Hindus both believe the recently dead are clairvoyant.
"What prayers can you say for her?"
He shakes his head. "I don't know... I just don't want to freak her out. When my Grampa died I didn't beat off for a week. I was scared he'd see me."
"Oh, she's probably beyond that. Death will make sense of it."
"No," he said. "Some things don't translate into Mormon."
Like women on tigers. Like the two of us.
"She won't like any of my prayers."
We sit on the bed; I rub the knots on his shoulders. Grief rolls in and out.. Suddenly he raises his hand as if he has the answer and is ready to be called on. I chase him into the kitchen.
He opens the cupboard doors two at a time. "Nothing," he says. "I just need to bake a cake."
"You're hungry?" Which stage of grief was this?
"I'm baking a cake for my grandmother. A big double fudge chocolate cake."
"I thought Mormons didn't eat chocolate."
"Grandma adored chocolate and all the rest of the stimulants. She said cooking absolved the sin. I even made her tiramisu once--rum and expresso. Nobody came between Grandma and her cake." He hands me the sugar. "Here. Make frosting."
"Kiss me first."
He gets flour on my shoulder and my face.
His grandmother, recently clairvoyant, watches.
Let her. If she doesn't understand now, she never will.
Jonathan Mack is a student in the MFA program at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Chocolate Chip Carrot Cake
1 1/2 C flour
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C dark brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C vegy oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
splash of Kaluha (optional)
2 cups grated carrots
1- 12-oz semi-sweet Mini-chips
1/2 C walnuts
Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Combine eggs, oil, vanilla, Kaluha, and add to dry ingredients. Stir. Add carrots, mini-chips, and walnuts. Bake in floured, greased pan for 35-40 minutes at 350û. Top with cream cheese frosting or ice cream.