An inanimate object’s account of an actual event
My dad was a Table Mount Meat Grinder and had to grip any given surface while Humans pushed raw meat through a bell-shaped spout and hand-cranked the pink paste through a slatted screen onto a plate. He had to use his brute strength, whereas I depend mainly on technology. But the positive of the olden days was that my ancestors could rest when The Humans did. Today they can push a button, walk away, and I do the heavy lifting. The only problem is, I can’t stop the grinding. Even if I wanted to.
I’m writing this from Appliance Heaven AKA a storage locker in New Jersey. There’s an ad in The Personals section that they now call Etsy. It’s basically a dating site for old geezers like me. My friend Ned was scooped up by a hipster couple living in Brooklyn and made into a fire escape planter. I saw pictures on Instagram. He’s sprouting an herb garden from his head. I don’t know whether to laugh or shudder at the horror. But I suppose I should just be thankful I didn’t get brought straight to The Dump all those years ago. I was a hot commodity back in the day, so even though there was that accident with The Girl, they cleaned me out and kept me around.
The year was 1941. I was working at a family-owned grocery store in Sikeston, Missouri and I had put in a full day’s work. The Man powered me off and walked outside. He yelled to The Woman, “Lucille! I’m going to start the car so turned off the meat mincer. Keep an eye on Carol!” She may have answered, but I can’t say for sure. The appliances were louder those days and the people more soft-spoken.
A few minutes later, The Woman walked in and saw me resting peacefully. She clucked in dismay at my laziness. She pushed my buttons. And yes, that damn idiom could be taken literally, because I was pissed. I had been pumping red slimy sludge through a grate all day so that they could package and sell and other Humans could make hamburgers. I was peeved and tired. But I was also programmed to perform in any condition.
The Girl was called Carol because she was born on Christmas. She had bright gray eyes, always opened wide as if everything was brand new to her. I had seen her toddle into the back room before, but on this day she spotted me. I can’t blame her; I was very shiny back in my youth. I was a little nervous for her because I knew if The Man came back here and saw her exploring, she would get a “spanking.” I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew that water came out of The Girl’s eyes and I knew that water made me rust – and that was painful. So one could only assume.
She wore a stony look of determination as she hoisted herself up on a Del Monte box that sat on the ground beneath me. She was now at eye level. I saw that her face was soft and round beneath her pageboy haircut and I felt warmth emanating from her. So opposite of my hard angles and cold exterior. Carol cocked her head and reached her right hand – her dominant hand – toward the hole on the top of me, into the dark tunnel that is my spout. I felt my stomach drop. Her tiny fingers and silken palm slid so easily into the cylinder. I couldn’t help myself.
I just did what I was advertised to do: I minced meat.
For as long as I knew her, my grandmother Carol Blanton had a prosthetic hand. When I saw it propped by the door it was always a bit jarring and even more so when it was attached to her arm. It wasn’t her skin color. Too tan. And always slightly cupped, as if it was waiting for something to be poured into its palm. But I got the notion that her even owning something like this was a luxury; she was ahead of her time.
When she didn’t wear it (at night or cooking), I noticed the callused stump at the end of her wrist that she would rub distractedly, with a tiny little nub where her thumb might have been. I wanted to better understand but I never asked her questions, or maybe I did when I was younger and I just don’t remember. In 2005, my freshman year of college, she died suddenly of peritoneal cancer. I thought it all unfair. She had climbed the rickety mid-century ladder that was set up for women in a male-dominated field of Big Pharma, while raising six kids with one hand. And suddenly her flame was snuffed within weeks because her stomach pains went misdiagnosed.
My grandmother planned her own funeral and my grandfather’s future from her deathbed. She picked her casket, scheduled the church service and prattled off roles to her family members. She asked me to sing “On Eagle’s Wings” from the choir loft. My grandfather had one responsibility: to find a new wife. “You need someone to take care of you,” she admonished. He knew it to be true. I can’t remember when she stopped wearing her hand or jewel-toned clip-on earrings, but eventually her soft body deflated like a pancake cooling, and one day, it disappeared. It reappeared, over-rouged, in a casket a few days later. My mom and aunt tsked about much blush she had on.
To write this piece I talked to my mom and my grandfather and asked them what they remembered about what she remembered. New details emerged, like the box she climbed on and the car being started. Things that were so detailed, they had to be true. But we can’t ever really know, where memory is concerned, and when the memory in question happened when my grandmother was two.
I feel like this isn’t my story to tell, so after reading a horrible, first-hand account of a drone during wartime, I decided that I could use this literary device to remove myself from the story and write about my grandmother’s accident. The drone in the accident took no responsibility for its killing. How could it really, when it was an inanimate thing?
Anna Svoboda is a writer living in London, recently uprooted from New York City where she was pursuing my MFA from The New School. She began classes this spring at London Metropolitan University and plans to finish her degree while working full-time in her role as senior copywriter at music streaming service SoundCloud. Art by Jack Murphy, the writer's brother: http://www.jackmurphyart.com/