Johnny Depp denies he ever threw Kate Moss down the stairs or hit her parents give DNA swabs to help identify children shot by Texas gunman Khloe Kardashian offended by rumors she had 12 face transplants I’ve had only one nose job she says it’s now or never to avoid climate catastrophe UN warns Johnny Depp’s finger story has flaws hand surgeon says Megan Fox swapped heels for Vans at Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker’s wedding Zelensky calls for ‘total help’ as Russian forces advance in Ukraine’s East Jessica Simpson shows off her tan in steamy swimsuit pic Taliban morality police tighten grip on women teaching duo died together in their Uvalde classroom Travis Barker removes Kourtney Kardashian’s garter with his teeth during wedding reception Russia shells towns in fierce battle for the Donbas surgeon backs Johnny Depp’s finger story why are we willing to live with this carnage Biden asks
A Lion in Yonkers
You can’t have a spirit animal, Grampa, she says.
He can have any goddamn thing he wants, her mother says.
No, he can’t. They’re just for Native Americans. It’s called appropriation, when you steal from someone’s culture.
Her mother cracks open another Coors. Yeah, well, you know what it’s called when you go off to some fancy-shmancy college for a year and suddenly know everything? A pain in the—
Actually, her grandfather says, it was a Native American that gave me my spirit animal.
His granddaughter rolls her eyes. Really? Here in Yonkers?
Why not? They used to have Native Americans here.
Ha, her mother says.
Yeah—used to, she says. Until we wiped them out.
Her mother sighs. Here we go again.
How do you know him? she asks her grandfather.
The Native American.
The Native American, her mother says.
We played pickleball at the senior center, her grandfather says.
Let me guess. He’s a Cherokee.
Why do you say that? her grandfather says.
All the phony Native Americans are Cherokee.
What’s a spirit animal? says her little brother.
It’s an animal that guides and protects you, the old man says.
I want one! the boy says.
Your spirit animal is a cockroach, his sister says.
Your spirit animal is a—
Enough! says their mother, holding up her hand. Jesus.
This would be a good time go to my room, the old man thinks. He grabs his walker, pulls himself to his feet, and shuffles down the corridor to his bedroom.
Why’d you have to say that? her mother says. You know he’s sick.
I just thought he’d want to know. He’s like me—he likes to know stuff.
Oh, so, you like to know stuff, huh?
Of course. Don’t you?
Depends. She takes a long swig of beer. Okay, here’s something to know: He’s dying.
What?! What do you mean?
I mean he’s dying. He doesn’t have long to live.
But the treatment was working.
Yeah, but it’s not working now. And he doesn’t want any more chemo.
Why didn’t you tell me?
Well, I’m telling you now. You being the person who likes to know stuff and all.
She taps lightly on his door.
There’s no answer, and she knocks again, a little louder. Grampa?
Come in. He sounds groggy.
She opens the door and sticks her head in. He’s sitting up in bed, an open book on his lap.
Were you sleeping?
No, I was just dozing.
She just stands there, not speaking. He reaches for his glasses on the nightstand and puts them on.
Hey, are you okay? he says.
No. She begins to cry. I’m sorry, she says.
What’s wrong, sweetie? What’re you sorry about?
Now she’s sobbing. Oh, Grampa.
He calls his friend, the Native American. So, Arnold, I’m curious. What kind of Native American are you?
What do you mean—like what tribe?
Yeah, I mean are you a Sioux or a Mohican or what?
From his bed, he gazes across the room up at the biggest and brightest moon he’s ever seen. The window is open, and a warm summer breeze stirs the white curtains. The medication kicks in, and he drifts off. When he opens his eyes a moment later—or perhaps an hour—there he is, in the moonlight. His magnificent golden head fills the window.
You came anyway! the old man says, nearly weeping with relief. He climbs out of bed and walks unassisted to the window, without stiffness or pain, on new legs.
Donald A. Ranard’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Vestal Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, 100 Word Story, The Washington Post, The Best Travel Writing, and many other publications. His play Elbow. Apple. Carpet. Saddle. Bubble. was named one of three finalists in Veteran Repertory’s 2021 playwriting competition. Based in Arlington, VA, he has lived in 10 countries in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.