Generation Gap | Kate Zambreno | Granta

Generation Gap

Kate Zambreno

The fridge is new, the landlady wrote back, when he first apprised her of the situation. It was easily eight years old, but that was what she meant by new, she had lived in that house for almost forty years. This was a couple days before New Year’s. He had me sniff the salmon for Christmas. He had placed one of their temperature and humidity gauges on two shelves in the refrigerator, to monitor the warming temperature. When we found ourselves together in the same room and not dealing directly with the children, I would ask after it. I am taking care of it he would say. Shoving in the ice packs for the children’s lunch bags. I’m on hold waiting for a service but most likely you blew out the compression by maxing out the freezer, she wrote, when he followed up asking when someone was coming out. He wrote something snappish and firm back, and then she backed down, even sending him $50 for the fish. She liked dealing with men more, she had told us when we moved in that summer. Later it turned out she had been calling Frigidaire, on hold all day. The next day she sent out her handyman, a former cop who did more talking than fixing. The landlady insisted on coming over, and chatting with him, because she was bored. Of course the fridge still didn’t work. The next day, New Year’s Eve, she said she called an emergency service. We waited around the entire day. I waited around too, she said, always defensive. Finally we called a repairman who fixed our washer and drier in the old place. She insisted on standing there, hovering the entire time. I had to stay with the children and the dog in the bedroom so it wasn’t too disruptive. She didn’t trust us because, to her, tenants were like children. She was so surprised we knew the people to call and fix things. The guy vacuumed out the back of the fridge, which was filthy. It was New Year’s Day, and we hadn’t paid the rent yet. Let’s let her squirm, he had said. She asked for it on the way out – do you realize it’s the first of the month? You have to put it on its coldest setting, and then it’s barely okay, he had texted her the day before, when she asked for an update. I thought you were supposed to keep it on its factory settings, she had written back. It’s old and inefficient but trying its best he had texted her, to no reply.


Image © Annie Spratt

Kate Zambreno

Kate Zambreno is the author, most recently, of The Light Room, published by Corsair July 2024, and Tone, a collaborative study with Sofia Samatar. Heroines will be reissued by Semiotext(e) in March and Corsair in September 2024She is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow. 

More about the author →