Short Story: Grandma by Natalia García Freire


By Natalia García Freire (tr. Victor Meadowcroft)


My eternity died and I am keeping vigil over it.

“The Violence of Hours”

César Vallejo



The last time Grandma Gironda died she had her hair in a high pompadour that resembled the petrified wing of a bird and flew above the right side of her brow. The rest of her hair was in rollers. Help me, I’m dying, she said, as she did whenever she died.

At the wake we always came across the same small bespectacled boy who wasn’t one of the family and would snicker, revealing his gums. By the last time Grandma Gironda died that boy was already old. And he no longer snickered.

When Grandma Gironda was in her death throes we made it very clear to her that this was the last time, we were tired, and that if we ever saw her alive again we’d give her the cold shoulder. Grandma Gironda stuck out her tongue, pale and sticky from eating sweets.

That day, the eared doves Grandma Girona bred in the laundry room went berserk, sinking their talons into each other’s breasts, but leaving the wings intact.

Mother said it was grief.

Father said: My God! Will you shut up?

When the Reverend Robles arrived, his bald head now covered in purple patches, he gave extreme unction and said: Caramba, Gironda, if you get away again you’ll have to die in sin, because coming up here so often has ruined my knees. I have meniscuses that would make you weep, child. Grandma Gironda smiled, displaying broken teeth all turned to fangs.

For the funeral everyone dressed in black and Mother forced the granddaughters to wear embroidered veils over our heads through which we glimpsed the world in pieces. At the cemetery we lit the candles of many tombs and stole flowers, carnations and chrysanthemums, some of which were plastic—how tacky!—and threw them in Grandma’s face as she descended inside the open casket, displaying that pompadour so hard it hurt to look.

Go, we told her.

Go once and for all.

Back at the house we boarded up the doors and windows and placed poison in the garden and the gutters. No precaution is too great when it comes to dealing with a pest.




Natalia García Freire was born in Cuenca in 1991. She teaches Creative Writing at Azuay University in Ecuador and has also worked as a primary school teacher. García Freire’s journalistic work has appeared in outlets such as BBC Mundo and Univisión, and her short story “Noche de fiesta” was published in the Spanish literary journal La gran belleza. This World Does Not Belong to Us is García Freire’s debut novel. It was nominated for the Tigre Juan literary award and selected by the New York Times as one of the best Spanish-language books of 2019. It has been translated into Italian, French, and Turkish.

World Editions will publish This World Does Not Belong to Us by Natalia García Freire in the US in June 2022.