Legacy

by Anna Lindwasser

You know what Grandpa Mike used to say? He said, “It’s easier to quit heroin then it is to stop smoking.” He used to roll his own cigarettes with rolling papers he sent my mom out to buy for him. He said, “The tobacco is mixed with blood from the first dragon your Grandma Grace ever slayed.” When I was nine I found a pack of American Spirits on the floor of a public bathroom. I put one in my mouth and thought it wouldn’t be long before poppies started sprouting from track marks I had never grown.

Grandpa Mike had skin like an old dictionary, shaky hands and eyes with yolky yellow streaks. You know what Grandpa Mike used to say? “The worst thing about dying of AIDS is that I don’t get to die after the CIA takes me out for beating the shit out of Ronald Reagan. The second worst thing is not getting to see my granddaughter grow up to beat the shit out of Ronald Reagan.” I hoped to become the kind of person who would beat the shit out of Ronald Reagan, but I think that I became the kind of person who starts panicking and drives the getaway car into the Hudson River while Grandpa Mike is holding up Citibank for heroin money.

I destroy myself before the world can. You know what Grandpa Mike used to say to Grandma Grace? He said, “Just because your father used to hit you doesn’t mean I’m going to hit you. If you wanted a man who’d treat you bad you should have married Jack Connolly.” After Grandpa Mike accidentally burned down their Brooklyn apartment Grandma Grace split. She didn’t marry Jack Connolly, but my mom did. Jack Connolly was Ronald Reagan in another body, a serial killer in human skin. Jack worked at the Citibank and he made other people come into the car with him whenever he got scared. On Jack, being scared looked like being angry. On Jack, being scared looked like blazing red stripes on my mother’s soft arm.

Before he went back to prison, Grandpa Mike painted me. He used acrylic paints because they were cheaper than oil paints, but he liked oil paints better. In the painting, I’m wearing a pink, conical princess hat. In real life, it fell off my head, but in the painting it stood tall and strong. You know what Grandpa Mike used to say? “You are a princess of a bullshit kingdom. Rule over it with as much kindness as you can muster, but do learn how to slay dragons. I won’t be around to teach you how, but your mom knows. Learn from her.”

My mom used to slay the fuck out of every dragon she met: when a pervert dangled his dick in her face on the subway she slammed her book on it and the pervert shot fire out of his nose. Jack Connolly drove them both into the Hudson River while I was somewhere else, applying for a job at Citibank. I considered developing agoraphobia and only opening my door for Fresh Direct. I considered beating the shit out of Donald Trump.

Grandma Grace saw Donald Trump once, when he was on The Apprentice and wasn’t the president. She was smoking American Spirits, and she blew a sumptuous cloud of American cancer into his face. He coughed, then walked away. You know what Grandpa Mike used to say? He said, “That smoke was you.” And Grandma Grace said, “How many times are we going to have to chop off this Hydra fucker’s head before he goes away?” Donald Trump eventually triggered a nuclear war with North Korea, but I was already dead by the the time that happened.

After I died, I swam out of of my wrecked car in the mud of the Hudson River and found the cave where my three-headed stepdad was holding my mother hostage. I did blow wisps of dead-grandpa-ashes into his face. He sputtered and coughed, waved at the smoke with leathery lizard wings. He almost fell off his throne, which was made of exploded car parts and soggy cardboard boxes from Fresh Direct.

My mother stood in the corner, reading a hardcover book that was millions and billions and trillions of pages long. Her eyes were yolky with yellow streaks, but they were looking into mine. I swam toward her, took her wrinkled hand and promised to make her a real princess like the kind Grandpa Mike used to paint.

When my mother’s second husband asked me me what the fuck I thought I was doing, you know what I said? I said, “I’ll destroy the world before it destroys me.” I said, “I’m going to beat the shit out of you.”

Anna Lindwasser is in the minority of NYC residents who is not a pigeon, rat, or discarded Metro Card. When she isn’t writing fiction, she teaches test prep to middle schoolers and writes listicles about anime. You can find her @annalindwasser.
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