Out of Reach, by Shana Genre

Ann sat at her kitchen table, snipping coupons from the weekly mailer. $.25 off Tampax, $.50 off Garden Burgers, buy one bottle of Suave, get the second bottle free. Ann placed these beside an envelope marked “Jennifer Dion.”

$.60 off AXE deodorant. A free one-month membership to Sam’s Club. A whole page of Pizza Hut meal deals. These, Ann snipped and placed in a pile beside an envelope marked “Andrew Dion.”

Ann did this for her grandchildren, who were far away. Jennifer had joined the Peace Corps and was busy building mud huts or teepees or Lord-only-knows-what. She was in Mongolia or Madagascar or Malaysia or Malawi—Ann couldn’t remember where. But surely, Jennie would need Tampax and shampoo. Plus there was no one else in the family who would hazard even a taste of Garden Burgers, and to thrifty Ann, throwing away a coupon was like throwing away real money.

Her grandson Andrew was also far away. Actually, it would take him about ten minutes to drive to Grandma Ann’s, but his mind was a universe away from her. Andy cared more for vodka, poker, and rap music than he did for Grandma Ann. Still, Ann dutifully snipped and organized her coupons into neat little stacks, ensuring that Andrew received his share of the cut.

Ann’s face was a pale white and looked as if a translucent onion skin had been pulled over her shriveled countenance. Fine lines and delicate grooves crept up her cheeks and danced around her eyes. Her hands, like her face, were pale and soft but blushed purple at each knuckle. Still, the fine muscles of her hand flexed expertly against the strain of working the scissors. Her rheumy eyes bore down upon her labor of love.

With a few more snips, Ann’s two piles were complete. Then she carefully stretched her hands to the wheels of her wheelchair. She pushed. She pushed harder. The wheels would not accommodate. As she strained, her gold chain swung forward, its small cross sweeping the remainder of her carefully organized coupons from the table. She cursed the profligate jewelry,  and then she began to whimper and grumble aloud.

Five coupons had escaped to the floor; Ann could see but not grasp the errant scraps. “God damn it,” she muttered to the distant scraps of paper. Then she apologized to God.

Shana Genre writes, parents, and teaches in Portland, ME. Her writing has appeared in The Cafe Review and McSweeney’s. Read more of her writing at Portlandish: Satire and Humor from the First Portland.