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Before dental floss, I remember my grandfather,

Pompom, digging in his teeth after every meal

with wooden toothpicks, preferring round ones

to flat ones, keeping his choppers in good working

order. Divorced from my grandmother, Gonga,

going about business until he forgot what it was,

where he was, or even who he was. Dad brought

him home for a while but he was unhappy living

with strangers, calling me Tommy when my name

was Billy. Went into same rest home as Gonga,

not recognizing her even when he stood in her doorway

in his shorts one morning talking about wanting

to smoke a cigar. But even after we told her he'd

never recognized her, Gonga still fretted about him

being there, saying, "That man just stood there talking

about smoking because he knows I hate the smell -

that's why I divorced him." Even as a kid, I knew

that wasn't the real reason - but I knew we didn't

talk about it. After three months wandering the pale

sage halls in sloppy slippers, looking for a smoke,

Pompom went to bed one night, forgetting to wake

up next morning. For a while, Gonga wasn't sure he

was really gone, looking for him at her door, insisting

she could smell cigar smoke. Each day, she drifted,

slipping further away until one day we were all just

strangers standing at her door, and she was back in

her mind, a gingham girl on the homestead outside

Guthrie, Oklahoma, helping her father hitch-up the

horses to go to town. Three months later, Gonga died

in a buckboard wearing a sunbonnet, holding a handful

of wild prairie flowers.

William H. Wallace, Jr.

Alta Loma, California

About the Author
William H. Wallce, Jr. of Alta Loma, California is a retired teacher with B.A. and M.A. degrees from Chapman University. He is a member of the California State Poetry Society and California Writers Club. In his daisy-shaped poem "Flower Fever" he asks: Do forget-me-nots/ Remember Spring? His first novel is entitled Ghosts of Gordon Street. Book two is a work in progress. His work has appeared in Front Range -- A Review of Literature and Art, MO: Writings from the River, Kaleidoscope, California Quarterly, Pomona Valley Review, The Teacher's Voice, Fiber, Fresh Ink, and Golden Words Anthology.
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