Grandma (c)


David Pearce

“Mama? You going to talk to Grandma today?”

“I just saw her yesterday.”

“I know, but you’re not going to visit her today, too?”

“Why, honey? Why do you want to know?”

“Just wondered, that’s all. How is she?”

“About the same. Still wants to talk about your grandad. She still thinks of you as the little girl you used to be. And she wonders how you’re doing now.”

“And what do you tell her? About why I won’t go to see her?”

“No. But she asks about how you’re doing in school, and about your friends. I mentioned Tony – I had to, dear. I’m sorry. But your grandma needed to know.”

“Mama! You promised not to tell anyone.”

“Grandma’s different. All grandmas are different. They’re special. My grandma was real small – you never saw anyone so small – but she was smart as a whip. And your grandma’s grandma – she was a right cuss, she was, from what your grandma says. You know, she’d tell you all these family stories herself, if you’d just go and visit her.”

“I know, Mama, but – she looks so thin and weak. And that place is so old and spooky. And smelly. And – and – Grandma smells, too.”

“Old people do, sweetheart. I remember my grandma smelled like fried eggs sometimes and sometimes like talcum powder.”

“Well, I think Grandma smells like – like rocks. With stinky old green seaweed on them.”

“Oh! No! Don’t say that. It makes me think of Tony.”

“Mama! What did Grandma say when you told her about Tony?”

“Well, she didn’t say anything for a long, long while. She had to think about it, you see. Then she asked if you were there when it happened, when Kim got killed. First off, she couldn’t believe that Tony could have known what he was doing, then she couldn’t believe that a rock could kill someone like that.”

“Does she know that Tony is my friend? How he’s a real good friend?”

“Grandma’s heard tell of Tony. Never knew Kim, of course. She thinks Tony’s better off where he is now. I just told her it was a home for disturbed boys.”

“Mama, I don’t want him in there. He’ll get hurt, I’m sure.”

“That’s what your grandma’s afraid of, too. She’s kind of curious about the whole business really – almost suspicious. Like the truth is hiding somewhere, she said. Your grandma always had a way with words – putting deep meaning into just about anything.”

“Well, that’s one reason it’s not easy talking to her.”

“Maybe you should go and see her. Talk to her about this. Else she’s going to keep on wondering. Maybe you can put her mind at ease. Explain to her about Tony, about what you saw happen.”

“Mama! No! I’m not going!”

“Now you listen here, young lady. That’s no way to talk to your mother. You should have some respect – you should show some respect for your elders. Now you go talk to your grandma – now!”

She cast her eyes up and around, then gave a sly, sardonic grin, just a split-second after she turned to obey her orders. She went upstairs to her room, looked at her mouth in the mirror, and grinned again, checking to see how it had looked, then went to the room down the hall.

The door was closed. There was no sound from within. She opened the door, waiting for the smell to reach her nostrils. The old woman lay on the bed, the covers up only as far as her waist, her hands holding a string of beads, her hair as white as her bedclothes.

“Grandma? It’s me. I’m sorry I haven’t been up to see you sooner – or more often.” The praying hands lay still, not counting the beads anymore. “Mama said she told you about Tony, yeah? And she said you might be starting to suspect something fishy about it, yeah? Well – if I tell you something secret, you won’t tell Mama, will you?” She looked at her grandma, expecting some sort of response, but the old woman was holding her peace, reserving judgement. “Well, me and Tony were playing at the lake and this girl Kim came up behind us making those weird noises some of those special kids make, you know? Scared us both! So we wanted to scare her back so’s she’d go away. Only she didn’t. She kept teasing us, so Tony picked up a stone and pretended to get ready to throw it. But she kept on and on. So Tony threw it to miss her, only it got her on the shoulder. And she got all crazy mad and threw a stone back. I didn’t throw anything, I swear. Then – then she got hit real bad on the head and she fell down. The thing she was wearing, like a bathrobe, it came open in the front, and – oh! – Grandma! It was weird! She – he- had a weeny! She was a boy all this time! She – he – was moving a bit, not dead, you know, so I got scared of Tony getting into trouble, and so I took the biggest rock I could find and smashed it on her head over and over. To keep her from talking and telling on Tony, and – oh! Grandma! I shouldn’t have told you, should I? If you tell Mama, she’ll have to go to the police and then I’ll get locked up too! Grandma? What are you doing? What are you going to do? Grandma? Don’t tell! Don’t!”

She moved to the bed and pulled a pillow from under the old woman’s head. She felt its soft weight descend on the old face, the face that reminded her so much of a mummy, of death. She pushed hard against the mouth and nose, the pillow almost too gentle for the job. Still, she kept the face covered, long minutes of only her own breathing to be heard. She was tiring fast the harder she smothered. Just a bit longer to be sure. Then she lifted the pillow. Grandma was breathing no more, no more than she had breathed for the last ten years as the corpse on her deathbed.

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