“Grandma!” Sylvia called. From upstairs had come a shrill scream, then a breaking of pottery. Sylvia had been asleep, but woke from a nightmare and had been meandering around the living-room in darkness, forgetting what it was she wanted and looking at the cuckoo clock, which was covered in dust, was loud and was detestable for a limitless amount of other reasons. She hesitated at the newel post for a moment longer, trying to determine whether to go up or not. Slowly she gained the stairs. Nearing the top she heard her grandmother sobbing, reading what sounded like a passage from the Psalms:
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
Sylvia opened the door.
“Grandma, what is it?”
Kneeling, hunched over on the carpet the old woman was weeping over a mess of broken white ceramic. She turned, fearful and small and Sylvia rushed to comfort her.
“It’s okay, Grandma,” she said, moving her hand over her back, her satin nightgown, attempting to find her face again. “What is it? Was it special?”
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” she wailed, “Jesus help a sinner like me!”
“Grandma, please,” Sylvia implored, “what is it? Why are you crying?”
“It’s here!” she wailed, turning. Sylvia recoiled at the whites of her grandmother’s eyes, her desperate, untempered manner. It contrasted so discomfitingly with her usual moderate, softly-spoken way that Sylvia had to fight against an urge to run. There was something also in the room that was strange—an electricity or a vibration that made it seem as though perhaps things were not real like they should be, were less concrete, different.
“Am I in a dream?” Sylvia asked softly to herself. “Am I in a dream, Grandma?”