It is not Christmas or her birthday but there is a card from her son, with a crest she recognizes as medieval, drawn with two male figures as supporters. One man wears a diaper and holds a scythe and the other has a crown and scepter. It is an invitation to a banquet, and she worries at first he’s back in Wisconsin, working at the Renaissance Fair. Back at his old job he couldn’t afford to keep her here, and she has just stared to like this Home with the walk-in bathtubs and aromatherapy on Thursday afternoons. But the return address still says London. So he is not back to pretending he is a minstrel; this is a nomination dinner, complete with a menu on expensive cardstock and the wines planned out by year. He is joining the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. He says Find us online.
One of the nurses shows her how to open Internet Explorer and now Wikipedia, which he says has free information, probably even about the Clockmakers. When she can’t get the Mouse to Single-Click on the Search Bar, he asks politely and then reaches over to type the words. He reads aloud it’s a livery company, formed by a Royal Charter in 1631. The card says new inductees will be admitted by Redemption, which makes her think of those old Mystery Plays he likes so well and the tattoo on his shoulder blade of Mak from the Second Shepherd’s Play. The nurse Clicks in the right places and the Internet shows photographs of English buildings and pocket watches. Men posed near a Westminster Mahogany Grandfather. A cartoon time machine. Of course. So often she thinks he is trying to build his world so that it straddles hers, taking up points on the space-time continuum before and after her but never contiguous. At any moment the Internet might freeze up with its big red X over a blue earth to say cannot display webpage.
The invitation in her hand is something real. She thinks how well it suits him, this crest, with one figure dressed up in costume, the other barely there, a specter, like a flash of letters in an E-mail. Someone to find online. The nurse shows her a different screen listing many other groups like her son’s. There’s a worshipful company of Gunmakers, of Haberdashers, of Barber and . . . Fishmongers! He holds out the word for her to laugh at. This is when a nurse expects her to say Old People Things like oh my, but she wants to see the photos again. She can’t find her son’s face in any of them. The invitation is starting to sting her a little, and the nurse sees this and says I bet they’ll have a video streaming online for you to watch. He is probably right, because isn’t it just like the Internet to encourage this sort of behavior?
Kate Olson Nesheim is a doctoral student in English (Creative Writing) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She also teaches a range of writing courses, from first-year college composition to creative writing and business communication. Her publications vary in genre, from nonfiction in The Gettysburg Review to flash fiction in Smokelong Quarterly and a poem in The National Poetry Review. She is often inspired by her travels and by the lives and memories of people over the age of eighty.