Later, when Grandma went down to the cellar to cool off, or maybe to escape the weight of Great-grandpa’s persistence, he called to me from the porch. I left the sink and went to him directly. He looked at me as though he didn’t know what I was doing there. He stared at the dishwater dripping from my hands while my ears pulsed with the sounding of my name.
“I come when I’m called,” I explained.
“I’d like to play you some music,” he said.
I made my way down the hall and knelt down to reach the fiddle from under the bureau in his tiny bedroom. I came back to him and laid it on his lap. I stood by, but soon saw he wouldn’t make a move to even open the case until I left him. Moments later, my hands back in the dishwater, the first tight strains of his bow stretching over the strings sifted to me through the bent-up screen door. I listened, pushed my hands down into the water, let the water push them back up until there were no suds left. I crept away from the sink and rested my cheek and side against the door frame. To my left I saw Great-grandpa’s right shoulder urging his arm back and forth, and his arm, speckled, veined, and lean at the wrist, pushed and pulled the bow. I thought he must have been a good lover when he was young.
The fiddle-tune widened across the miles of gray, evening prairie, its song deepening until there were no gasps of air between sound, and I imagined Great-grandpa’s playing as though it were swimming. He never paused, even when he said, “I always knew that, Claire.” He was answering my secret from three nights before when I told him I would’ve been his if he weren’t an old man, and my own great-grandpa. The swimming song he made with the strokes of his arm pulled him deeper down into cool water, and that screen between us was just enough to bar me from reaching to him, to keep me from striding out and pushing my forehead against his.
A long while later Grandma came up from the cellar. She looked at me with her tape-measure eyes and saw what had come to pass. All was as still as it had been for days. The water in the sink didn’t tremble, I didn’t cry, the great-grandfather on the porch neither stood nor fell, but despite Grandma’s best intentions in the dark hours, death had found me alone in the house. It hadn’t finished its work yet, but it had come.