5/8/16. Ebook of "A Guide to Being Born" by Ramona Ausubel. (Riverhead Books, 2013) Also published in One Story and Best American Fantasy 2009.
In a ship at sea, lots of grandmothers exist in a state of uneasiness. They aren't sure what they are doing there or whether they have any control over where they are going.
A group of grandmothers find themselves on a ship at sea, unaware of how they got there or what they are doing. Alice, one of the grandmothers, is the protagonist of this story. She wanders the decks of the ship, talking about what the other women are doing--mostly just passing the time recalling memories, making small talk, playing parts of games. There are large containers they contemplate and then finally break open. Inside, they find one is filled with baseball bats, one with padded toilet seats and the last with yellow roses. They end up unraveling rope and trying to connect the strands to the baseball bats to go fishing. They catch an angler fish and all have opinions about how to name it. Alice ends up naming it (as she was the catcher) and they release it back into the sea. As the story goes on, the reader realizes that this is an imagined in-between between life and death. In a hospital room, Alice's family worries and surrounds her. On the ship, she thinks about her life and loves. She decides to go swimming, since it's ridiculous to be in the ocean indefinitely without swimming. She makes knots in a rope, each one representing a person in her life, and then jumps off the rope into the ocean after climbing down most of the way. She enjoys the feel of the water, swimming around until she throws her arms up in a celebratory gesture, flicking water droplets out into the sky like fireworks.
Thoughts or Additional Info:
I love this story. The idea of dying is so scary to me and the idea of loved ones dying is even scarier. I also often think about where the minds of those in a coma or experiencing late-stage illness may be. This is a soothing story--one I can easily see revisiting during certain times in my life.
"The grandmothers--dozens of them--find themselves at sea." - Ramona Ausubel
Memorable Lines or Passages:
"Alice is a lover of views, of great expanses, and she is happy now as she has always been, to look out." (Loc 45-54 of 2424 in Kindle ebook)
"There is always the chance of a giant squid and the great likelihood of regular squid." (Loc. 198 of 2424 in Kindle ebook)
grandmas, grandmothers, ship, limbo, evocative, existential, life and death, dying, memory, memories, yellow roses, fishing, angler fish, boat, toilet seats, Alice, women
I'm just a short story lover and voracious reader who wants to keep track of the shorts I read and help others remember the ones they've forgotten.