Graffiti the Walls

by Matt Barrett

I want to graffiti the walls where my grandmother lives, white and sterile walls (egg-shell colored walls, as the nurses say), replace her sanitation lists with photographs, magazine spreads, and paper clippings; take the mattress from her prison cell and remove each spring, make them bend, make them budge, make them act like springs for the very first time; force a bed through her door, the California King; ax the molding if it’s in our way, ax the Restrictions sheet that says No wine; smuggle beer, smuggle rum, replace her plastic trays with a stereo set and bring her old friends in, Dorothy and Marianne; cut the bracelets from her wrist that make the elevator scream, cut the bracelets from her roommate’s wrist, who sits by the phone waiting for her father to call. Clothe them in jewelry—heirlooms, as my mother says—priceless, priceless, everything is priceless; bring what’s priceless and let her choose, let her stand before the mirror with lipstick on and set the oven to broil; let her cook, let her chop the chicken to pieces; turn the water on and let it steam; let the chicken burn, the kitchen burn, cover the alarms and sirens. I’d like to take the warden’s car—the red Corvette with a cigarette smell—and ask which way she wants to go; see how loud the engine roars as her cell blocks disappear.

Originally published in River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative. Click here to read Matt Barrett’s reflection on writing about caregiving.

Matt Barrett holds an MFA in Fiction from UNC-Greensboro, and his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Sun Magazine, The Threepenny Review, The Baltimore Review, Best Microfiction 2022, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Minnesota Review, The Forge, Pithead Chapel, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, trampset, Contrary, and Wigleaf, among others. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and two sons and teaches creative writing at his undergraduate alma mater, Gettysburg College.

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