“What was life like back then?” she mused, gently rearranging the quilt over her lap. Silence settled over the room for a brief moment before the air conditioner kicked on, filling the void with its soft humming. She leaned back in the chair, a peaceful smile adorning her face. Westley sat patiently, he balanced the tablet on his knee as he awaited his grandmother’s return from her reverie. He tilted his head, brows furrowed in slight concern.
“It wasn’t so different from today; whether it be as America or the Chinese Atlantic States, we’re all just trying to get by.” She leaned forward, her slender fingers seeking her pack of cigarettes. She plucked one from its formation and placed it between her lips; she lit the end and inhaled heavily.
“The greatest medical advancement was the prosthetic lung,” she laughed, “I may be slightly biased, though”. Westley fixed her with a disapproving stare. “I distinctly remember the summer of 2029, I was heading out west. The Pacific states were in a world of trouble and I figured I could get some coverage of the coup”. She paused to ash, daintily tapping the cigarette. “My tire blew out on the thoroughfare between Arizona and California — ”
“Oh, bloody hell, don’t they teach you kids anything in school?”
“Only the important stuff,” he retorted, mouth set in a firm line. She fixed her eyes on him and for a brief moment he could see the woman she used to be. Eyes with a fiery intensity that would burn down your house. They were a faded blue, no longer a seething ocean but standing water, muddied by cataracts. He knew she was only this animated when he was present; his mother had laid it out for him long ago.
“You’ve got spunk, kid, I like you” her laughter cut off by a spat of coughing. “Where was I?”
“Oh, yeah. Before all these fancy hover-cars, there were tires. You wouldn’t believe this, but we also drove ourselves around, too.”
He painted a look of feigned awe on his face and was gifted with a goodnatured smirk in return.
“I couldn’t get a replacement until morning,” she continued, “and this eccentric couple found me and offered me a bed for the night. Get this,” she leaned forward, motioning with her hands, “they collected bones and used them for silverware. Their living room was this massive workspace filled with hatchets, machetes, and all these wacky tools.”
“Get outta here…! Do you think they…?” he leaned forward, inching himself off the chair in anticipation.
“You bet I do, kiddo — ” she paused, her eyes trained on the doorway, “Is it time already?”
Westley turned around, irritated by the interruption. The nurse stood behind him, tapping her watch.
“Your mother is outside, Westley”.
“It’s so nice that you school-kids volunteer here and visit little old ladies like me,” she toyed, tossing the nurse a wink, “Sometimes I wish I had settled down and had kids, you’re an absolute pleasure, young man”.
He offered her a smile and stood up, reaching over to grab his tablet. The nurse guided him outside and waved him off. “See you next week, Westley,”.
Westley slid into the backseat where his mother was stationed, surrounded by her work.
“How was your grandmother?” she questioned, her eyes trained on her phone.
“Same as always, ma. She told me the story about the tire again,” he exhaled and pulled out his tablet.