A different kind of sunlight that day—the day Bisque sat out on the stoop, shucking pistachios and the gleam of the air settled in on his face, casting half a shadow, a shadow full of cracked thoughts and known uncertainties. The day itself sounded like a broken nose—an incessant buzz, a wiry hum, and this was his mood as he split pistachios, tossing them into an orange bucket, keeping the papery flakes for himself, sucking each shell like oysters.

Grandmother Violon was dying, this Bisque knew—bedridden for the past four months in the loft upstairs of Bisque’s house in St. Martinville, once a church. The stained glass windows were still there—the scent of oak and candle wax stitched in its history since 1904—and Bisque had moved into the church eight years ago, after the last prayer was hummed by its people.

Here’s the steeple, he thought as the sun was slanted—a bent horizon, one eye closed while picking away at the pistachios—the only attraction to Grandmother Violon these days, the particular texture after the first chew was what she enjoyed most as they tumbled around on her tongue. Other than Bisque, who had been taking care of her for eleven years, her only memory of joy were pistachios. Bisque himself enjoyed David’s Bar-B-Q flavored sunflower seeds but had taken a liking to the flakes coating the shells which now became his way of thinking, allowing him to focus on the day’s entries—whether past, present or future.

He chucked the last pistachio of the bag into the orange bucket and tilted his head, still one eye closed, and watched the world wobble a bit before going back inside.

“Mémère,” Bisque called out.

He walked up the stairs which creaked with every step, and with each step he would imagine the case breaking in and falling down into the core of the earth where the faint music of an accordion playing in the distance could be heard as he danced the two-step around molten metal—this time, there was also a frottoir rattling away, and the sound remained in his head after snapping out of his reverie. He pressed his tongue to the roof of his mouth, tasting the last of the flakes. He saw Grandmother Violon in her bed. The rattling stopped.

“I’m here, Mémère.”

“Cher,” Grandmother Violon said, “there are no ghosts.”

She was on her side, facing the door—Bisque had positioned her that way so that she could see him walk up the stairs.

“Where are the ghosts, Mémère?” he replied.

“There are no ghosts.”

Bisque gently put his arms around her, setting her back against the headboard of the bed.

“Mémère—I have pistachios.”

This was one of only a few words which would make Mémère smile. She put her hand on Bisque’s wrist, papery and thin—a slight tremble.

“Have you eaten?” she asked.

“I’m good, Mémère—let’s have some pistachios now.”


Bisque put the orange bucket down on the wooden floor and sat on the straw chair just next to the bed. He scooped up a handful.

“Have a mouth open, Mémère.”

“Yes, cher.”

Bisque slowly put a pistachio in her mouth, and Grandmother Violon rolled it around her tongue before chewing. There is life, Bisque thought, as he waited for her to finish. He put another one in her mouth. The light was broken as it came through the stained glass window, coming in from the other side of the room.

“Here,” Bisque said. “I’ll put these on for you, Mémère.”

He placed a pair of large and round sunglasses around her eyes.

“What do you see, Mémère?”

“I see no ghosts, cher.”


“How much longer do I have left, petit Bisque?” Grandmother Violon asked.

Her voice was as thin as her wrists—the way the light came in, Bisque could see swirls of rainbow colored particles in the beam. Beyond the shine, he saw an owl perched on the oak—its eyes coming through. Bisque put his hand on Grandmother Violon’s forehead and rubbed her temples with his fingertips.


He fed her another pistachio.

“I don’t think you have too much longer left.”

He kissed her on the cheek.

“Bring the ghosts,” she said, “and let them take me away.”

“They’re coming, Mémère—soon. I will miss you, Mémère.”

She lifted her arm—too weak to reach its destination, Bisque crouched over and bowed his head to let Grandmother Violon brush her hand through his hair. The simplicity of its touch provided him with comfort—so a series of memories of his youth and his grandmother, energetic and lively, playing horse and carriage in the front yard. Those echoes of the past rippled through his mind, a world where there was no pain, a time when they weren’t waiting for any ghosts.

“I know, cher—such good times.”

From the bedside table, he poured a glass of water.

“Let’s have a few more pistachios, Mémère, and then a bit of water.”

“And then the ghosts, cher?”

“Maybe so, Mémère—no more worry, now.”

After three more pistachios, Bisque tilted the glass while raising his grandmother’s chin—she slowly sipped, each swallow, a moment of remembrance for Grandmother Violon.

“You’re a dear for taking care of me, petit Bisque for all this time. I’m happy.”

“I’m happy, Mémère—sleep now—I’ll be back in just a bit now.”

He adjusted her body so that she was flat on the bed and took off her sunglasses—Bisque looked into her eyes—he saw the ghosts in them resembling raccoons on their hinds with their paws in the wind. Through the window, the owl was gone—just a bit more time, he thought, and Grandmother Violon closed her eyes. It didn’t take too long for her to sleep, a deep sleep—Bisque listened to her breathe knowing that there would be a time, soon, when there would be no breathing—when her chest would remain still.

Back outside—the evening was still there, the tip of the sun dipping beyond roofs of houses before Bisque as he lay in the grass with the sky staring back at him. Please let it be peaceful, he thought—please take her with ease. I am no one any longer—no one for her. The owl flew over—its wings so wide they enveloped the last of the sun, and there was darkness. The shades around his eyes grew darker as they days took their toll on his way of life. He wouldn’t have it any other way though—the love for his grandmother had no bounds or limits.

In came the Gulf winds, pressing against his body, a familiar smell and as the air lost its light, Bisque saw ashes twirling around, an incessant sound of rustling, he sat himself up. Across the street, there was a house and it was on fire. Mr. Veron, he thought—a neighbor, late in his years who had shown the tricks of life to Bisque from fixing a broken lawnmower to working the engine of his car. A gentle man with calloused hands and soft eyes—Mr. Veron looked over Bisque as he looked over Grandmother Violon, sometimes bringing over pecan pies and satsumas, or an inviting them over for gumbo when it was cold outside—this was when Grandmother was more mobile and active. When she became bedridden, Mr. Veron would instead walk over to their house using a broken branch rasped into a cane, and they would sit in Grandmother Violon’s room, dining on shrimp and grits. He’d bring his radio over, and they’d listen to zydeco on KRVS.

Mr. Veron, Bisque thought. It was the roof that was smoking, and Bisque rushed over to his house. The door was opened—it was always open, and he ran in, calling out Mr. Veron’s name.

“Oh I’m here, good sir,” Bisque heard.

He walked into the kitchen, where Mr. Veron was standing at the oven wearing mitts. He wore an apron, and his glasses were tilted as they were missing one of the temples—they had been like that for as long as Bisque knew him.

“I’m just about to finish baking this bread pudding for you all, Bisque—I’m happy you’re here.”

Bisque breathed in the kitchen and tasted its air.

“Mr. Veron,” he said, “we need to get out and call the fire department.”

“Now why is that, good sir?”

“Mr. Veron, your house is on fire. The roof.”

“Is that so?”

“It’s so, Mr. Veron—let’s get.”

“Well the bread pudding is just about to finish up here—let me take this over to Grandmother Violon. She might not eat it, but I think she’ll like the look of it.”

“Mr. Veron—I think we need to get now.”

The aroma of the kitchen quickly shifted over to the smell of smoke. The house became dark, and the fire was rustling louder.

Over at the church, Grandmother Violon lay in her bed, facing the stairs. Her eyes were open and she reached out, not knowing what she was reaching out to—she called out, in a faint voice, for Bisque.

“The ghosts,” she said. “Cher Bisque—the ghosts. There are no ghosts. Where are the ghosts?”

She lifted her head—so slightly and turned it, looking at the window, where all she saw was darkness. She continued to talk to herself.

“Seems right. Let them come.”

Fiddling with the sunglasses, which had been placed next to her on the bed earlier by Bisque, Grandmother Violon managed to put them on.

“There is light,” she said. “Petit Bisque—there is light.”

“Let’s get, Mr. Veron,” Bisque said.

“Sure thing, good sir.”

Mr. Veron bent over and pulled out the breading pudding.

“It’s hot, but it smells so good.”

Bisque grabbed Mr. Veron’s walking cane.

“Come on now,” Bisque said in a gentle voice. “It certainly smells so good, but let’s get.”

“Your grandmother will love the way this looks,” Mr. Veron said.

Bisque saw the proud twinkle in his eyes—he smiled big, with his remaining teeth showing.

“She sure will,” Bisque said. “Let’s take that on over to our house and show Grandmother Violon.”

“Bon,” Mr. Veron replied.

“Mr. Veron,” Bisque said, “where are your teeth?”

“Oh I kept them in the living room,” he replied. “I guess I’ll need them now.”

“Hold on.”

Bisque went into the living room and saw his teeth on the coffee table, next to a stack of Southern Living magazines. There was smoke. He picked up the dentures and put them in his pocket and went back to the kitchen where he saw Mr. Veron looking up, staring at the ceiling.

Bisque took the breading pudding from Mr. Veron and gave him the walking cane. The pan was burning his hand, but he held onto it and gritted his teeth—his other hand on Mr. Veron’s arm. The smoke had started to come in as full clouds. They made it outside—where a crowd had already gathered. Step by step, Bisque and Mr. Veron reached the edge of the yard and turned around. One of the neighbors had mentioned that the fire department had been called, and the sirens could be heard in the distance. Bisque put the bread pudding down on the road and rubbed his hands before blowing on them.

“Oh look at that,” Mr. Veron. “Looks like a good fire—good thing we got the bread pudding out.”

He patted Bisque on the shoulder.

“You’re right about that, Mr. Veron.”

“Don’t you worry,” one of the neighbors said. “We’ll take real good care of you.”

Mr. Veron nodded and smiled.

“At least we got the bread pudding,” he added.

“I’ll be right back, Mr. Veron,” Bisque said. “Just grab a seat on that chair and wait for the fire department.”

He asked one of the neighbors to stay with Mr. Veron.

“What about the bread pudding?” Mr. Veron asked.

“I’ll take it inside the church,” Bisque replied. “It’ll be there waiting for all of us.”

The fire truck arrived, and the crowd gave them their space, spreading out across the street. Some asked if they could help. Out came the large hose. Bisque shouted that there was no one inside.

“Such a strange waterfall,” Mr. Veron said.

“Here,” Bisque said, “look.”

He grabbed the chair and put it next to Mr. Veron.

“Have a seat right here—I’ll be right back.”

“Good sir.”

“Here, Mr. Veron—take this.”

Bisque handed him the teeth, and Mr. Veron put them in his shirt pocket, tucked under the apron.

The church was dark—Bisque entered holding the bread pudding. There was rattling near the sink. He called out Grandmother Violon’s name. The rattling stopped. A street light gave way through the window and Bisque looked toward the sink. Ghosts, he thought—there are no ghosts.


A shadow shifted—outside, he could still hear the people talking and shouting as they stood on the road in front of the house on fire and the hose was still in full force. Bisque saw a figure—dressed in all black, a face covered in a bandana.

“You can take what you like,” Bisque said.

He looked on the counter where the was only a fork. He reached out to pick it up.

“Don’t,” the voice said.

Bisque put the bread pudding down on the counter.

“You can take what you like except for the bread pudding—it’s not mine,” he said.

“It smells good,” the voice said.

“I can give you a bit.”

There was pause—the sink rattled again.

“Mémère,” Bisque said.

“What’s that?”

“My grandmother—Violon.”

“Where is she?”


“I haven’t been upstairs.”

The sound of windows breaking came from across the street.

“There’s a fire,” Bisque said.

“I saw.”

“Mémère,” Bisque said.

“I won’t hurt her. I won’t hurt you either if you do nothing wrong.”

“Would you like some bread pudding?”

“Is Mr. Veron okay?”

“You know him.”

“I do.”


“He’s a gentleman.”

“Now that’s right,” Bisque said.

“Keep the lights off.”

“I will.”

“It smells nice in here.”

“I need to see Mémère—she’s dying.”

“I know.”

“Are you a ghost?” Bisque asked.

The figure took a few steps back and leaned over—looking out the window, across the street.

“I’m just a guy.”

Bisque saw that he was holding a small jewelry box—he had kept it in the living room. Carved in wood and engraved, a family heirloom which Grandmother Violon had passed down to Bisque. He kept nothing in it—Grandmother Violon had given away all of her belongings, keeping only a few sets of clothing.

“That’s a nice box there,” Bisque said.

“The carvings,” the voice said.

Bisque saw him move his hands around the surface of the box.

“It’s pretty.”

“It belonged to Mémère—it has been in the family for generations.”

“It’s pretty.”

Bisque took a step forward and the figure moved back.

“Would you like it back?” the voice asked.

“Seems fine.”

Bisque reached out for the fork. He thought about Grandmother Violon upstairs. The rush of the crowd outside hushed, and the people started going on their way. Bisque could see that Mr. Veron was still outside, sitting in his chair. He quickly moved his hand over to his pocket and patted it. He sighed, remembering that he had already give Mr. Veron his teeth. He reached out for the fork again.

“Please don’t,” the voice said.

“Speak again.”

“What’s that?”

Bisque took in a long breath and exhaled.

“Francis,” he said, “Francis—is that you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What are you doing?”

“I was just stealing some things.”

Bisque switched on the light and saw Francis, dressed in black—his face covered in a blue bandana.

“Hi, Mr. Bisque,” Francis said.

“Have a seat.”

He pulled out a chair for Francis and then one out for himself.

“Now why are you stealing from me?”

“I saw the fire,” Francis replied, “and everyone was there so I thought I’d just duck in over here and pick up some things to sell—but I don’t want to sell this box. I just want to keep it and put it in my room. It’s pretty.”

Bisque looked out the window—Mr. Veron’s house looked calm.

“You could’ve just asked, you know that—right? I mean I can help you out.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Bisque.”

Bisque thought about the jewelry box and the generations if had been through—he thought about his grandmother and how her time was nearing.

“You can have the box,” Bisque said. “I keep all my memories in the box in my head.”

Francis took off his bandana and smiled, thanking him. He reached out his hand.


In his palm were a set of earrings—Bisque didn’t even know that he had them or where they were kept.

“I was going to give it to my girlfriend,” Francis said. “But it’s my gift to you—as a thank you.”

“Well thank you for giving me back what you stole from me,” Bisque said, “as a gift.”

“My pleasure, Mr. Bisque. Mr. Bisque—are you going to tell Ma?”

“If I hear about it again, I will—now get.”

“Yes, sir.”

Francis stuck out his hand, and Bisque shook it.

“Come back next week,” Bisque said, “and I’ll get you some dinner and dessert.”

“Yes, sir.”

Francis went out the front door, and Bisque let out a loud sigh, relieved that nothing worse had happened. Just as he was about to head upstairs to check on Grandmother Violon he heard a call for his name coming from outside—Mr. Veron. He walked over.

“You good,” Bisque said.

“Well,” Mr. Veron said, “looks like my house caught on fire—you see that.”

“I sure do,” Bisque said. “Don’t you worry—we’ll get it all cleaned up and good to go. You can stay at the church in the meantime.”

Bisque flinched and looked around as if he had heard a whisper. A strong push of the Gulf breeze came through. Mr. Veron coughed—the smoke still in its trails.

“Let’s get inside now,” Bisque said.

“I lost the bread pudding,” Mr. Veron said.

“It’s at the church.”

“I lost my teeth.”

“It’s in your pocket.”

Mr. Veron patted his legs, pulled out his teeth—expressing joy as if had found some money.

“Let’s have some of that bread pudding,” Bisque said. “How about that?”

Bisque told the fire marshal that they’d be across the street, and they walked back to the church—Bisque poured him a glass of water. The stained glass windows appeared brighter to Bisque that night, almost alive.

“Just rest for a bit,” he said. “Get that tongue ready for some pudding.”

Bisque patted Mr. Veron on the shoulder and walked toward the stairs.

“I’m coming up, Mémère.”

On the eighth step—as it creaked—Bisque saw himself tumble through toward the core of the earth, a whirring in his ears. In his descent, he traveled through soil and roots, scraping and scratching his body and face, nicking like razors—he grunted as he twirled and twisted. There—among molten metal and magma, he saw a sphere dressed in blue and yellow fire, quietly roaring, calm and comforting. There was no smoke. And there—he saw Grandmother Violon, holding an accordion, a frottoir, fresh and shiny, covering her body. Her appearance—youthful and vibrant and strong—the fire itself reflecting in her eyes, Bisque was hypnotized as he was on his knees before her. Perched on her shoulder—an owl with large wings, a beak so yellow and bright, it casted light, making Bisque squint as he tried to gather in his surroundings. A familiar breeze came through—that which he recognized originating from the Gulf, and the flames tossed about in unison, in rhythm. Grandmother Violon played the accordion, tapping her foot against the dirt of the world, her chin up as her voice echoed throughout Bisque’s vision. A silence. Beams entering through the pores of the crust, Bisque felt an unfamiliar sensation—only that which he could pin as ghosts circling around him.

“Mémère,” Bisque managed to say, just below a whisper.

She heard.

“Petit Bisque”

She spoke in a voice Bisque hadn’t heard in years—a voice which recalled a time when they rode horses together and tended to the farm from the morning sun to dusk’s awakening. This was a voice now which became infinite. A cow walked behind her, turning its head toward Bisque with a slight tilt.

“The pain,” Bisque said.

“Released,” Grandmother Violon replied.

The cow now gone—the owl still on her shoulder, head unmoved.

“They’ve come,” Grandmother Violon said. “They’ve come and took me away with gentility.”

“Mémère—there are ghosts,” Bisque said.

“There are ghosts,” Grandmother Violon said.

“What will I do?”

“The church is your home, cher Bisque—take care of your chores.”

“I’ve never cried,” Bisque said.

“Cry and let this world in—let the world take its own through your skin.”

She played the accordion—next to her, an orange bucket full of pistachios. The owl lifted, taking the bucket away with its talons—its wings swooped, engulfing Bisque’s vision until there was no bird. Gone. The fire—blue and welcoming, continued to gleam in Grandmother Violon’s eyes.

“Je t’aime,” Grandmother Violon said.

Her voice causing Bisque’s realm to tremor.

“Je t’aime—Je t’aime—Je t’aime,” she continued.


“You are needed,” she replied. “No longer from me—but for others. You know, cher. Your love will keep them going.”

Bisque thought about Francis and Mr. Veron.

“They need you,” Grandmother Violon said.

She tapped her foot as if the music was still playing.

“Bring the farm back,” she said, “and you’ll be there.”

“I love you, Mémère.”

“Je t’aime, petit Bisque—cher.”

With that, Grandmother Violon tossed a packet of David’s Bar-B-Q flavored sunflower seeds to Bisque, and as he grabbed them, he saw Grandmother Violon disappear, a smile which radiated into him. He heard the rattling of the frottoir—a crisp and clear melody, then became distant, an echo, and then a familiar hum ending in quiet vibrations. Silence.

“Ghost,” he said.

His own voice now, booming and echoing. He stood and took a step and found himself leaning on the banister of the staircase, at the top—before him lay Grandmother Violon, on her side. Her sunglasses rested on her body, and when Bisque looked at her, he saw what appeared to be a smile on her face. Her eyes were closed.

Bisque slowly walked toward her, looking around, making sure that he was at the church. He knelt at the bedside and looked at his grandmother, taking in a deep breath and letting go. Outside the window, the branches were bare in the dark. The glass of water on the table was empty, and Grandmother Violon’s hands were clasped, tucked under the side of her face, as if she was having a beautiful dream.

Bisque turned around and then back to his grandmother, tilting—he whispered to her before kissing her on the ear and leaning his head against her chin, closing his eyes. His hand caressing her body.

“Mémère—I’ll see you under the sun.”

He put her on her back and covered her face with the blanket.

“Ç’est tout,” he said, almost grinning like he knew a secret.

Back downstairs, Mr. Veron had fallen asleep in the kitchen area—his teeth on the table, he slumped in his chair with his mouth open, snoring. Bisque tapped him on the shoulder while he looked across the street—it was clear and gone, the house looked relieved after the fire had been put out. Bisque quietly called his name to which Mr. Veron lifted his head and without hesitation, he said—“Bread pudding.”

“Yes,” Bisque said. “Now it’s time for some bread pudding.”

Mr. Veron picked up his teeth and tapped it against the wood of the table.

“Should we bring it up to Violon?” he asked.

“Not today, Mr. Veron—she’s asleep. She’s in a good sleep.”

Bisque took out two plates and spoons and started serving—the bread pudding still strong in its aroma. Before sitting down to eat, he went to the front of the church and opened the door, letting in the Gulf breeze, still tinted with the smell of smoke.

“Don’t you worry, Mr. Veron,” Bisque said. “You’ll be good. I was thinking—you know Francis?”

“Sure do—that’s Jeannette’s son, right? He’s the one who keeps on stealing from everyone, but then he returns it the very next day.”

“That’s him.”

“That’s a good kid.”

“He’s a good kid—I was thinking since your house is out right now, that you and Francis can help me put the farm back together and get it going again.”

Mr. Veron put his teeth back in his mouth.

“Farm life,” he said, smiling—“I miss it.”

“Sounds good then,” Bisque said.

He sat across from Mr. Veron and watched him take the first bite and as soon as it entered his mouth, he made a sound—a sound of pure delight, and just before Bisque was about to take in his first spoonful, he noticed on his arm, scratches all along—as if he had been running through a pathway of branches—and coming from nowhere, he heard, as if from a long distance, the faint music of a familiar frottoir.

Shome Dasgupta is the author of The Seagull And The Urn (HarperCollins India), and most recently, the novels Muu-Antiques (Malarkey Books), Cirrus Stratus (Spuyten Duyvil) and Tentacles Numbing (Thirty West Publishing House), and a poetry collection, Iron Oxide (Assure Press). His writing has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Jabberwock Review, New Orleans Review, New Delta Review, Arkansas Review, Magma Poetry, and elsewhere. He lives in Lafayette, LA and can be found at www.shomedome.com and @laughingyeti.