Fiction by Maureen Hammond
For someone who’s always prepared for disaster, Grayson never expected to have
sudden lapses of memory, with clouds of haziness fogging his mind.
Lately, it feels as if he’s looking at life through a smoke machine. As if he’s the puppet
and some unknown figure is conducting his actions from above.
Oblivious to his surroundings, Grayson finds himself acting without thinking.
Tuesdays blend into Fridays, afternoon naps turn into night time sleeping.
He finds himself eating breakfast in the afternoon and stirring salt into his coffee.
Time feels irrelevant and all food tastes the same nowadays.
It feels as if he isn’t himself anymore. Is he even real?
Trembling hands lose hold of white porcelain, leaving behind a shattered teacup.
Huh, that’s odd.
Since when did he decide to drink tea? When did he even brew– no, wait– when did
he even buy it?
Shaking his head and dismissing the thoughts, Grayson cannot fathom what’s been
affecting him as of late.
Looking around his apartment, misplaced items litter his home. Balled socks put away
in the half-empty plate cabinet; his car keys underneath a dining room chair;
newspapers spread across the hallway floor…
Worry sets in like an agonizing plague as Grayson realizes he has no recollection of
his apartment becoming this… jumbled.
Spilling the crimson water on the tablecloth doesn’t really worry him. No. His
grandfather always knows how to remove stains if he really wants to salvage it. (It was
such an ugly piece of fabric. Who even bought it? Absurd.) But this stained cloth
only adds to the mess of his home.
An Easter-themed tablecloth in March. It’s not even close to any holiday, let alone
Easter. Where’d he even find it?
Prior to this past month (month s ? year?), Grayson could not have named one
example of this level of clumsiness. He was, after all, practically the epitome of grace
Or, well, he had been.
Staring at the broken cup and tea-soaked tablecloth, Grayson stands to clean up the
Maybe he’s going crazy? After all, he had been the victim of various head injuries
throughout his entire childhood. Playing football does come with a price.
But no, that really wouldn’t make sense.
Why would he be the crazy one? He’s always worn a helmet. He’s always followed
concussion protocol after every head injury.
Really, Grayson has nothing to worry about…
Or, at least, that’s what he’s saying to convince himself.
He lets himself forget about the numerous times he didn’t remember a helmet and
the numerous brain illnesses that could affect him regardless.
Subconsciously, Grayson moves to clean up the splinters of porcelain. A piece snags
his finger, leaving fat drops of blood to mix with the tea.
Of all days he decides to drink tea, this happens. What a mess.
He doesn’t even like tea.
Or maybe he does? Grayson can’t seem to remember.
A knock at the door breaks his thoughts. Three quick raps, tap, tap, tapping.
Is he expecting guests? Maybe.
Opening the door, he stands facing an empty hallway. Peeling green and white
wallpaper greet him. Mildew winking and flies decorating the ceiling.
Waiting— for what? He doesn’t know — Grayson stands there for several moments
before turning back to his disordered apartment.
Moving to put scattered dishes away, he considers how lucky he really has been his
He’s never really had a career-ending injury, like some of his old teammates. Nor has
he ever actually died on the job, like some horror stories he’s heard before.
To be quite honest, he’s one of the lucky ones.
Blinking, Grayson looks down and finds that he’s walking alongside Main Street.
He cannot seem to recall putting on his shoes and leaving. (Well, maybe that has to
do with the fact that he’s barefoot.)
Vaguely, Grayson wonders if this has happened before.
Rocks and pebbles dig into the heels of his feet. Soot-colored dirt stains his soles and
mud cakes his ankles.
His hands grab at his stomach, suddenly. If only to verify that he remembered to put
on a shirt that morning.
What else could he have forgotten?
Turning around, birds chirp and pedestrians walk by him without a care in the world.
They must think he recently broke out of the looney bin! No shoes in March. How
Peace and quiet fill the air…
Well, except for the couple arguing across the street. What a shame, Grayson
remembers how passionate relationships can be. He can almost taste the bitterness
that his arguments with Barbara brought. His ex-girlfriend. The former light to his life.
Oh, how he misses the fire they shared… Maybe he should call her; it has been a
while. But that isn’t right. They had just spoken last night. Or maybe it was last week?
Finding himself off the street and in his apartment complex, Grayson notices the “out
of order”sign on the elevator. A sigh escapes his lips, but internally he’s grateful for
the extra few moments to take in his surroundings. Except, after trailing his hand on
the chipping gray railing, walking slowly up the dimly lit staircase for only a second or
two, Grayson finds himself once more in front of the tea-stained tablecloth.
Odd. He had thought that he just cleaned that up.
And so, he finds himself waddling up the cloth and throwing it in his hamper.
It’s fine. Nothing to worry about. Nothing at all is wrong.
Maybe he should call his father instead of Barbara. Maybe he would know
But after patting himself down in search of his phone, it takes him a moment to realize
he doesn’t have it. It could be anywhere, really. In the apartment, somewhere in the
street… The possibilities are endless.
With a hope of finding it and a vague feeling of indifference, Grayson shuffles around
the apartment, flipping cushions and upturning books. He winds up finding it in an
empty flower vase. Not where he would typically store an electronic device, but it
could’ve been left in a worse spot, he supposes.
Standing there in triumph for having found it, Grayson realizes that he cannot seem to
remember why he needed it.
After staring blankly at the cracked screen— when did it become cracked? —
Grayson idly tosses it onto the couch. A couch full of rips. But it’s always been ripped,
Maybe he’ll remember why he needed it in a few minutes.
Kicking an empty water bottle to the side, Grayson strides across the room to look
outside of the.window.
With the sun out and clear sky, it would be a nice day to visit the park. When was the
last time he visited Melville Park? Too long if he can’t remember.
Flickering lights dance across the room before turning off completely. A circuit’s
either been blown, or the electric bill went unpaid.
That’s fine. Recently, Grayson had read about the benefits of living with all-natural
Or maybe he read about the benefits of all-natural food.
Nonetheless, Grayson smiles as he goes to find a replacement light build. In the
closet, batteries greet him and rumpled towels line the shelves, but there’s no
lightbulb box in sight.
Oh. A sticky note dons the third shelf, with “need light bulbs'' written in red ink.
Supposedly it serves as a reminder for him to buy more. Clearly, it failed at that.
Natural light. It’s fine. It’s good. It’s okay.
Suddenly the sky’s dark. Suddenly he cannot see his hand mere inches away from his
face. Suddenly, days continue blending together, and it escapes him to purchase
Suddenly, his father is at his door and the teacup is still shattered on his table.
Every dog has its day.
Sometimes, hope seems to shine over Grayson's family, even during strenuous times.
His little brother, Robin, took to his return home in stride. Ignoring his sudden lapses
in memory, Robin seems to act as if nothing’s changed. Not a single difference in his
brother’s actions worries him. Not at all.
Likewise, Robin’s dog took to Grayson’s return home like a bee to honey. Like a
butterfly to pollen. Like a chicken to seeds.
Every morning, his cold, wet nose presses to Grayson’s chin. Reminding him to wake
up. Reminding him to stop dreaming.
Falling down a rabbit hole, sometimes Grayson wonders if he really wants to wake up.
Robin often accompanies his dog’s early morning greeting to Grayson’s room.
Standing outside Grayson’s door, Robin quietly checks to see if today’s going to be a
good day. (On bad days, Grayson looks right through him. Gazing blankly at the
faraway wall. Eyes half-closed with his mouth turning down.)
On bad days, Grayson seems to forget his own name. Seems to forget many things.
His mouth can hardly form slurred English. Forgetting basic words. Repeating
Robin can look past it. He can forget it. Can act as if nothing’s wrong.
“Hey, Gray,” Robin greets awkwardly.
Today’s going to be a good day, Robin decides. Today they’re going to go on a walk.
Talk like two adults would. (Though Robin’s only hardly broken into adolescence.)
Today, they’re going to take it one step at a time.
Grayson looks up blearily. Looking at Robin, not through him. (A positive sign.)
Despite the shadows on his face from the window, Grayson even looks more alive
His mouth opens and closes twice before he forms the words, “Bon après-midi.”
Not wanting to correct him, Robin sighs. It’s fine though. Always fine. Morning,
afternoon. Both are so closely related it hardly matters what Grayson says.
At the foot of Grayson’s bed, Robin places a hand awkwardly on Grayson’s ankle.
Trying to help stabilize his older brother.
“Bonjour,” he says, matching the misplaced language.
French. The language of love. Sometimes Robin wonders if Grayson knows what he’s
saying or if it’s one and the same to him at this point.
It doesn’t really matter, though. So long as his older brother’s still here in this life with him.
Shaking, cold January air shoots straight into Grayson’s core.
Hollowness aches within him from the inside out.
He’s a Russian doll. Open him up and there’s ten more to be found.
Having forgone proper winter apparel, he stands trembling in shorts and a t-shirt.
Bare feet planted in icy snow, Grayson stares directly into the sky. Numb toes and
burning eyes, the sun’s just as bright as any other day. (Better check to make sure, of
Bitter, dry air hugs him, wrapping frigid arms around his torso. Goosebumps spread
on his bare skin. If he were blind, Grayson wonders if the bumps would form Braille
for him to read.
A slight breeze threads through his hair, but Grayson can’t seem to focus on anything
but the birds.
Birds, as always.
Repeating in a loop, it’s difficult to focus on more than three thoughts at a time.
An apparent theme that consumes his time as of late, the colorful animals abduct his
focus. Chirping. Grayson’s ears perk with each musical note.
Hands grip his arms, and suddenly Grayson finds himself out of the warm sun. Warm enough, at least. He can’t feel anything in his arms, but that’s the price to pay for breathing in clean air.
Clean. Nothing’s ever clean anymore. Dirt sticks to his skin, itching and crawling on him.
Something wraps around his frame. It’s not rough. (Not quite soft, either.)
With individual threads unraveling, fraying at the edges, it’s clearly a loved blanket. Though Grayson can’t imagine who owns it.
Someone shoves a soft pillow in his hands— not a pillow, a stuffed elephant. Turning the toy in his hands, Grayson pats the head of it thrice (un, deux, trois). Grayson supposes it should remind him of something or that it has significance, but he doesn’t really care to remember. If it were important, he wouldn’t forget it.
“You can’t keep going out there,” the faceless man says. His hand rests heavily on Grayson’s shoulder. Dragging Grayson down, down, down.
Falling down a flight of stairs. Tripping over obstacles. Parachuting from a helicopter.
Gravity overwhelms Grayson, so he lets the man drag him.
Voices murmur from across the room. A vibrato of chords. Strumming over one another, playing a symphony orchestra for the audience of one.
A few flat notes shake Grayson’s focus and enjoyment of the song, but calmness takes over for him once more.
“It’s not safe.”
But Grayson knows they’re wrong.
Beauty is meant to be enjoyed, even if it means not having any feeling in his toes.
And if it wasn’t safe, then the sky shouldn’t be so inviting. Then the door shouldn’t be unlocked.
Grayson watches as colors blend together.
Women and men come in and out of the house.
A variety of red-heads greet Grayson. Each one stretches a smile tightly across their face, all with frowning eyes.
“You didn’t say how bad it was, Robin.”
Voices whisper, trying to outdo the next one in quietness. And something wet comes out of the seated lady’s mouth. Crying. (Such a beautiful day shouldn’t inspire tears.) Her eyes pour rain, thick rivets down her face.
It’s been too long since Grayson last went on a hike.
One with overbearing trees dwarfing him. Wild animals scuttling through thick bushes. Rushing rivers and breathtaking waterfalls.
His neck would be unforgiving the day after, but Grayson always seems to keep his eyes to the sky. Watching for animals. Watching for the sun to set. Watching. Always watching.
A few flying men come by the house as well.
Reminiscent of long forgone hikes, Grayson puts a crick in his neck looking at them. (Maybe he shouldn’t have decided to lay on the floor during their visit. Maybe he should’ve stood to meet their eyes.)
One insists his name is Uncle Clark, though Grayson knows his uncle’s name is actually Rick . (Even Grayson can remember that.)
That one doesn’t try feigning a smile. His eyes cry dryly.
Grayson doesn’t know how to remedy that.
Growing up, Grayson always wanted a flower garden.
Sure, there’s one at the family cabin. But he wanted a smaller one. Something he could maintain himself.
Back in the old country, his mother always had a potted plant in their small trailer.
Tulips. Orange and vibrant.
Sometimes the flowers would wilt and dry up, but when that happened, she inevitably would replace it with a placeholder plant until tulips were back in season.
Strong fragrances filled the trailer at all times, and the flowers alone seemed to brighten up the inside effortlessly.
“C’mon, Grayson,” a boy quietly says, “You just have to pick up and swallow them.”
Delicately placed on a plate, three pills blink up at him. Baby powder blues and electrifying yellow meet his eyes. Colorful flowers against a white surface.
Not orange. Those aren’t tulips.
Someone shifts beside him, disrupting his vision.
Gently touching Grayson’s hand, the stranger nudges Grayson’s fingers towards the pile of pills.
“It’s been half-an-hour, maybe–”
“You know what happened last time,” a new voice cuts in.
The boy sighs.
Grayson wonders when tulips will be back in season now. Hopefully soon.
Robust robins chirp outside of Grayson’s window.
Orange-bellied creatures hip, hip, hopping in the early morning sun.
Warm rays brighten his room, and Grayson lays curled in his bed. Content to bask in the lovely weather, albeit indirectly.
While soaking in the April sun rays, a multitude of emotions overtake Grayson. None he can accurately describe, though the rush feels overwhelming.
Windows and birds. Birds and robins. Robins and windows.
Grayson loves birds. (Or, at least, he feels like he does.)
Such beautiful creatures. So happy. (Heureux, feliz, glüchlich.)
Always happy. He recalls someone named Robin. Someone with a nice smile. And dark hair. Blue eyes? (Maybe they were green.)
Grayson closes his own eyes. (Which he is certain are blue.) He supposes it doesn’t matter if he knows a bird named Robin. Nothing really matters anymore. At least, not when Tuesdays blend into Fridays, and time isn’t real.
Grayson can’t seem to brew coffee without having stirred salt into it.
Grayson’s falling through life holding a broken clock and carrying too many thoughts to comprehend.
Gradually, despite the birds having momentarily distracted Grayson, happiness overcomes him, causing his sorrow to become as scarce as hen’s teeth.
Today, a kind stranger smiled at him and offered to cook him breakfast. Grayson doesn’t remember his exact words, of course, but he won’t forget the man for his generosity.
Birds chirp. Tea fills his cup. Happy thoughts freeze his head.
Grayson feels like a puppet and the strange skunk man’s his marionettist. He’s fine with that. Perfectly happy to have such a nice man guide his actions.
Is he even real? Even human?
Darkness ebbs at his mind for a brief moment, causing him to lose hold of the blue porcelain– now-shattered– teacup.
Blankly, Grayson stares at it in shock. Who broke that?
Not a second passes before a little boy falls to the floor, cleaning it up.
This house sure has some nice people. So helpful. So kind.
The boy whispers something to a shadow in his room. Everso large and imposing, the shadow watches the two of them intently.
As present as his lamp, Grayson’s nearly certain that this shadow visitor has been with him forever and always.
After all, Grayson can’t seem to remember a moment without him present.
Even after the shards of porcelain disappear, the boy stays, and two– three? four? five?– people creep into his room to join them.
Quietly, Grayson says, “Avoir la pêche.” Earning a smile from the shadow, Grayson shuts his eyes feeling accomplished.
He doesn’t know why the shadow’s there, but he certainly is happy to keep it company.
Idly, Grayson wonders what’s for breakfast and where the robins outside his window went.
It’s only early evening. They can’t have gone too far.