In which Jerry and Buzz eat their last Christmas dinner together


Earlier in the evening we'd eaten and watched TV. Jerry was interested in the paperwork and I was interested in the moonshot so we ate in silence. The meal itself was space-age, self-contained and ready-made which was lucky because there wasn't any room on the table for the traditional spread of fish egg soup, fried carp, and potato salad, and now that Babi was dead there was no one left to cook it. Her will was the centerpiece with deeds and policies to restituted Czech properties orbiting around them like satellites as Jerry shuffled them into their proper alignments. Held trade one paper for another, surprised to once again find the evelope with her ashes in his hand.

He'd put the envelope back in his lap and cover it with a napkin. He concentrated on the paperwork but looked up every time he thought I was looking at him but I was looking over his shoulder to the TV where they displayed black and white footage of the charred remains of the Apollo 1 astronauts. Grissom, Chaffee, and White died on the launchpad during a mock countdown, roasted alive in a white ball of pure oxygen combustion. The cause was a wire frayed bare by the opening and closing of an instrument panel door.

Jerry had nothing but good things to say about my grandmother now but ever since I could remember he'd been waiting for her to die. The arrangement had long been that he, my sister, and I could live there rent-free so long a he paid the property taxes and made repairs, which he did in his typical half-assed fashion not for want of skill but waning interest. It was with great excitement that we'd prowl the aisles of hardware stores adding specialized tools and expensive compounds to our basket but 9/10ths of the way through any project held start cutting corners, so holes in the wall were puttied over but the paint never matched, instead of replacing cracked windows held cover them with plastic the tape for which would peel paint from the sill around it.

The house, the car, and even my grandmother were all falling apart, held together with duct tape, bond-o, and discount hospital supplies from a mail-order catalog.

His main job had been the subdivision of the house, which was gradually partitioned and rented out to an ever deteriorating class of loners and weirdos as the house fell apart and the neighborhood slowly went down.

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