One in a series of extemporaneous bedtime stories told to K.
There was once a boy — me, in fact — who had an inflatable grandmother. She wasn’t my real grandmother. My real grandmother was a regular, non-inflatable person who got cancer and died. And then my grandfather, who had Alzheimer’s, came to believe that his wife had run away with another man in the building, who also got cancer and died.
I’m not sure if I’m explaining this right. The other man really did die from cancer, just like my grandmother, and no one ran away with anyone. But for some reason my grandfather believed otherwise, and it broke his heart. My father tried to convince him of the truth, but he wouldn’t listen. So it was then that my father came up with the idea to replace my grandmother with an inflatable doll.
Of course I didn’t understand any of this at the time because I was just a boy. Instead I pieced it together later, and my father filled in the gaps. All I knew at the time was that whenever we visited my grandfather, there would be an inflatable doll sitting on the couch and that I was supposed to call the doll Bubbie.
K: Was it a fuck doll?
M: Well, yes, only I didn’t understand that because I didn’t know what those things were. But, yes, it was an inflatable doll that you have sex with.
Anyway, my father or my grandfather, I don’t know which one, dressed up the doll to look like my grandmother. It had makeup on and wore the same clothes my grandmother wore.
I remember sitting in my father’s car in the parking lot of my grandfather’s building and having my father explain that Pop-Pop was really confused and that he missed Bubbie so much that he now had a doll that he thought of as her. He asked me to play along and say hello to the doll and call her Bubbie, and I said I would. After that we had a regular visit. We sat around eating danish like we always did, and talking about whatever we talked about, and sometimes my grandfather would direct comments to the doll, so we all turned to the doll to see what it would say, but of course it never said anything.
We had about a half dozen visits like this, and then one time we came and my grandmother… I mean the doll… wasn’t there. She was usually propped up on the couch. So I said, “Where’s Bubbie?” and my grandfather said she wasn’t feeling well and was still in bed. So I went to the bedroom to say hello, like I was supposed to do, and there I saw this terrible thing. She, it, was in bed, on her side of the bed, completely deflated.
K: Was she dead?
M: Well, she wasn’t dead because she had never been alive, but I knew she was broken.
K: How old were you?
M: About six. Anyway, it’s weird because it was actually kind of upsetting. I had come to think of the doll as my grandmother. I knew it wasn’t a living thing, and I knew that my grandfather was crazy, but I had gotten used to the doll being in the place of my grandmother, who I missed terribly, and now the doll was deflated. I didn’t know if she, it, the doll had a tear that could be repaired, or if her… what do you call it? The place where you blow her up?
K: The blow hole.
M. I didn’t know if that rubber cap thing had come off, and I didn’t think it was proper to look, the same way that I never would have looked under my real grandmother’s garments. I wouldn’t have done that even if I had found her dead. It was really strange because as I stood there, I was hit with this wave of pretend sadness. Or maybe it was real sadness. Anyway, I didn’t tell anybody what I’d seen, and then we left, and then my grandfather was put in a nursing home for people with dementia. The end.
K: This is another story that makes me want to fucking kill myself.
M: Thanks, sweetheart. The end.