J.G. Formato

I am a writer and teacher from North Florida. My short fiction has appeared in Syntax & Salt, Zetetic, freeze frame fiction, and elsewhere.

I am a writer and teacher from North Florida. My short fiction has appeared in Syntax & Salt, Zetetic, freeze frame fiction, and elsewhere.

Finders and Keepers, Its and Not-Its

I’m not the hoarder, Granny Keeper is. I’m just the finder.

I found her the day I lost everything. My boyfriend, my wallet, my job. I had no idea where the boyfriend or the wallet went, I just knew they weren’t there when I woke up. Will’s stuff was all gone, from his Xbox to his nose hair trimmer, so at least I knew he wasn’t kidnapped.

Maybe my wallet was, though.

On the other hand, Trisha the manager was crystal clear on why I lost my job. You’re supposed to write the customer’s first name on the ticket, not bitter identifiers. Codependent Hipsters. Sugar Daddy and the Sidepiece. Short-Term Engagement.

At an aggressively cheerful chain restaurant like mine, such shenanigans are the kiss of death. Termination effective immediately. Absolutely bone-chilling terminology, I would have preferred to be released.

She was sitting at the kitchen table in the dark when I got home. I flipped on the lights and there she was, complacently knitting a bright red scarf. She later gifted it to me as a memento of our first meeting, and I love it now, but at the time it was garish and eerie. I mean, who knits in the dark in other people’s kitchens? Usually psychos, I’m guessing.

I didn’t say anything at first, I just watched her. She was round and soft and friendly looking, like Queen Elizabeth’s approachable twin, and she hummed That’s Amore to the click of the needles. I thought maybe she had wandered off from her family, and I tried to recall the faces of the missing people I had seen posted at Wal-Mart. She didn’t look familiar.

At first, the humming and knitting was kind of nice. Soothing. But then it started making me nervous again. Needles and all. “Hi,” I said, and waved, which was kind of awkward since I was only two feet away.

“Hello.” She laid her knitting down in her lap and folded her hands. “How was work today, dear?”

“Well, I got fired.”

She clucked her tongue at me, a disapproving mother hen. “Well, now, that’s too bad.” She patted the chair next to her, and I slid into it.

She invited me to sit in my own chair.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked.

“Not really.” I shrugged. “But we should probably talk about what you’re doing here.”

That was important to get out in the open.

“Why, I’m from Craig’s List.” Wispy grey eyebrows, aged rainbows of surprise, soared into the delicate lines of her forehead.

“Craig’s List?”

“Your new roommate?”

“My new roommate?” Echolalia, the long banished, obnoxious childhood habit was bubbling up. Ms. Jess, my poor speech teacher had worked so hard to break me of it. In her honor, I bit my tongue (literally, front teeth vivisecting quite a few taste buds) and forced myself to listen, without interjecting, while my elderly trespasser explained herself.

“Your ad.” She spoke the words deliberately and slowly, as if to a very small child or crazy person, which wasn’t really fair, considering the circumstances. “I’m taking the extra room. We’ll split rent and utilities right down the middle, but from the looks of you I imagine I’ll be taking over groceries. You’re skin and bones.” She dug around in an enormous patchwork bag, and pulled out a package of Fig Newtons from beneath a tangled web of multicolored yarn. “Please, have some,” she said, brandishing them at me.

Dismissing an irrational fear of being fattened up for Baba Yaga’s oven, I took one and chewed on it thoughtfully. I guess it was nice of Will to put an ad on Craig’s List for a new roomie. It would have been nicer if he had just told me he was leaving. Or nicer still if he’d just stuck around.

On second thought, a Craig’s List ad is a pretty crappy farewell gesture.

“So, how come you were sitting here in the dark?” I asked.

“Don’t talk with your mouthful, dear. No one needs to see that,” she admonished primly before answering my question. “It would have been rude to barge in here and turn on all the lights as if I owned the place.”

“Right,” I said, making sure I swallowed every last crumb first. “What’s your name?”

“You can call me Granny Keeper.” She resumed knitting and humming.

“I’m Bree.”

“I know, dear.” She patted my hand. “It was in the ad.”


Granny Keeper was flipping pancakes when I came downstairs the next morning. Like, literally flipping them. A procession of them soared from the spatula, stopped just inches from ceiling and spun, hurtling back to their blistering doom.

I hadn’t eaten breakfast in five years, but that was all about to change.

“I need something blue,” she said, handing me a plate.

“Something blue?” I repeated. Gah. I bit my tongue, gathered a thought, and tried again. “What do you need?”

“I’m not sure yet. It’s just so empty in here. We need something blue. After you eat, you can run out and get me some things. And then I’ll see which one I want.” She unclasped a dainty beaded coin purse and pulled out a crispy new fifty dollar bill. “Get as many as you can.”

I don’t know what was in those pancakes, but I said yes.