Rising above Highway 35 is a new billboard advertising Grandma’s Multi-National Eating Concern. It has the usual old-tyme depiction of Grandma Rosa in her fluffy sailor’s suit with cravat. At first I paid the image only a passing glance, as there were a number of other billboards vying for my attention that should have been busy keeping my car on the road.
Then I looked back. And stared. I don’t think Grandma’s visage had ever been plastered on such a large surface, and this was the first time I was able to study her in detail. Grandma’s skin is pale and pulled tight like parchment over her bone structure. Her face has a kind but stern countenance that suggests a demeanor essential for shacking up lonely sailors in her [ahem] boarding house. Her eyes…
She has no pupils, her eyes rolled back in her head. Grandma is dead. I can see the scene of the day this photo was taken. The photographer was down in Canal Park in the spring of 1918 and had everything set up and ready to go.
“Where’s Grandma?” he asked a serving girl.
“I haven’t the foggiest… she’s never late for anything. Never.”
The photographer and a small group of curious people head up to Grandma’s House and find her face down on the floor of her living room. It appears she died knitting. A young man moves a darning needle and checks her pulse.
“Grandma’s dead, sir.”
“We need to do this photo shoot.”
“Er… Grandma is dead… sir.”
“Well, that’s great and all, but if Grandma is going to own an Empire at the turn of the next century we’re going to need pictures. Now.”
They wrap her up in a tablecloth and bring her down to the boarding house. They prop up her body with a broomstick and spritz her with water every once in awhile so she doesn’t look too dried out.
“Could someone do something about her head? It keeps rolling to the side in the most unnatural of postures.”