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"When Gran-Gran's Pearl Necklace Goes Missing" by Jennifer Lai

When Gran-Gran’s Pearl Necklace Goes Missing

she narrows her eyes at my brother, Dusty. He’s forever misplacing stuff: LEGOs, socks, mouth guards.

“What would I—” He stabs at his chest with his forefinger. “Do with your pearl necklace?” Throwing his chin in the air, he points to Gran-Gran.

Arms folded, Gran-Gran stares at Dusty over her tortoiseshell glasses. Then at me. Then at Dusty again, and harrumphs.

“Maybe you misplaced it,” I offer.

Gran-Gran sucks in her lips, then peers at her mint-green parakeet, Jo Jo. She runs her wooden cane across his cage. Rat-a-tat-tat. “Damn bird eats anything. Ain’t that right, Jo Jo?”

“Ain’t that right, Jo Jo?” her parakeet says.

“No way,” I say.

“Jose,” Dusty adds.

Jo Jo flaps his wings and squawks.

Moments later, Gran-Gran stabs her gnarled finger into the front window. “Now there’s the thief!”

Dusty and I turn to see a doe trot onto the front lawn. It stops, lifts its head, then looks our way as if it knows we’re staring.

“Let’s go,” Gran-Gran says, ushering Dusty toward the front door. “Get a wiggle on.”

It’s wet out from last night’s downpour, so I want to argue, but something in her voice stirs up memories of when Pa-Pa used to take me geocaching as a kid—memories that’d lodged themselves deep in the back of my brain after he passed away. So instead, I help Dusty with his Superman rain boots and we head outside where we find ourselves trudging through the mud, brown muck flecking the backs of our legs.

Gran-Gran shields her eyes from the sun and scans the area. “Use your x-ray vision, Dusty-boy. My pearls are here somewhere.”

Dusty grabs my hand, and we roam the yard.

Before long, he points to a bulge in the ground and bounces his legs up and down. “Here! Here! Here!”

With our hands, we rake the mud and unearth a pile of LEGOs, ping-pong balls, and mouth guards.

I clear my throat loudly as he stuffs as many of the items as he can into his pockets, flashing me a dimpled grin.

“Ah-ha!” Gran-Gran exclaims from a few feet away.

Arriving by her side, we find a collection of brown pellets on a small patch of grass.

“It’s scat,” I say.

“Yeah, scat,” Dusty says.

She hunches for a closer look. “But they’re so round. Why are they so round? Deer scat isn’t round. Are they round?”

Dusty and I bend over and place our hands on our thighs. Gran-Gran’s right. The pellets are unnaturally round. Their unusual shape reminds me of square Wombat poop, something I learned in class last semester. I’m in the middle of telling Dusty this when I hear Gran-Gran squelching through the mud. Garden hose in hand, she offers me the spray nozzle then raises her eyebrows.

“Seriously?” I say.

“Seriously?” Dusty says.

She gives me a laser look that says I-am-so-so-serious.

As the water washes off the mud, shiny spherical objects appear.

I hmm.

Dusty hmms.

“Ah-ha!” Gran-Gran laughs hysterically.

I shake my head, bending to gather the objects. “Uh-uh, Gran-Gran. They’re marbles.”

“Marbles?” Gran-Gran grabs one and studies it like a jeweler, peering at the white cat’s eye design inside. A few seconds pass before her lips creep into a smile. Wrinkles emerge from the corners of her mouth like a dry lakebed and tears gather in her eyes. “Your Pa-Pa gave me these before he died. He used to collect them as a boy. I thought I lost them.”

I let out a sigh. “Me, too.”

Dusty wipes imaginary sweat off his forehead. “Phew! Me, too.”

Gran-Gran gives me a once over, then beckons me with her hand.

I raise an eyebrow as she wraps her bony arms around my waist. Dusty grabs the back of my thighs. My arms lift, ready to embrace, when I feel her tug at the waistband of my denim shorts.

“You need to wear a belt,” she says. “I can see your underwear.”

She shoves me away with the strength of a superhero, and Dusty and I fall onto our haunches. Marbles and LEGOs spill into the mud.

I side-eye Dusty, who’s side-eyeing me.

I shrug.

He shrugs.

Gran-Gran stands akimbo in her purple flowered muumuu and looks off into the distance. “Now, where are my pearls?”

Jennifer Lai writes mainly micro and flash fiction. She has work in Bureau of Complaint, Flashflood Journal, hex, and elsewhere.

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