Grandma Saves the Day
Edward M. Turner
The house was quiet except for gentle snores. Dawn sent arrows of light through the windows that faced east. Clouds like sailing ships drifted across the morning sky. A light breeze fluttered the delicate blue-on-white window curtains. Crickets chirped noisily before calling it a night.
Andy stretched his five-year old arm as far as he could under the hall bureau. His eyes bulged with the strain and his fingers groped blindly. In his orange jumpsuit, the young boy resembled a furry pumpkin. He believed maybe two, maybe three more inches would do it.
Beneath the bureau, which stood beside the upstairs bathroom door, a black cat watched the kid’s fingers advance toward it. The cat gave a snarl of frustration and backed further against the wall. Its fur was matted and messed from a rather unexpected wake-up call.
Andy hunched his shoulder down more on the floor and managed to squeeze two more inches of stretch. His fingers touched something furry, something—PAIN! The cat bit him.
The cat had one of his fingers in its mouth and worried it like a terrier would a rat. The cat purred as it chewed.
Andy screamed silently, clinched his fist around a furry throat. But two sets of claws forced him to relinquish his hold and pull his bleeding hand out. The tiny pinholes and scratches were superficial digs, except for the pain. Andy examined his wounds for perhaps ten seconds, then suddenly dropped to the floor and reached back underneath. He snagged a hind paw. The cat gave a yowl of despair as it felt itself relentlessly dragged backwards, its nails unable to purchase a hold on the varnished wood floor.
At that crucial moment Andy received an unpleasant surprise in the form of a vicious kick to his arse.
“Get away, get away from my cat, you wicked creature!” hissed Grandma, who continued to kick her grandson with her slippered foot. The boy writhed on the floor in an effort to dodge the blows. The cat scurried off.
The parents’ bedroom doorknob rattled. Grandma deftly gave Andy one more kick and slipped into the bathroom. She closed and latched the door.
“Andrew? Now what are you doing up at this hour? Waiting for the bathroom? It appears Grandma Bailey has beaten you to it. Honestly, if you two didn’t drink so much hot chocolate just before… well, never mind.
“Wash your hands afterwards.” Mother closed her door.
Immediately, the sound of a toilet flushed. Andy, who had gotten to his feet, drew back from the bathroom door. It opened to the silhouette of Grandma in the doorway. She had a plunger in one hand. She leaned out and looked at Andy.
Andy backed away a few steps, his arms up in a guard position.
Grandma departed the bathroom with the plunger pointed at her grandson. She moved down the hall to her own bedroom. In the doorway, her black cat hissed. Both entered the bedroom. The door softly closed, opened, and a hand tossed the plunger into the hall before the door closed once more. The lock clicked.
Andy skipped downstairs, went into the kitchen, and opened his father’s junk drawer. He pawed around amongst the collection of screws, screwdrivers, Phillips screwdrivers, bolts, nuts, clothespins, a flashlight, two hammers (tack and claw), cut-up rags, sockets, assorted wrenches, Elmer’s glue, a lint brush, pliers, furnace tape, invisible tape, plumbers tape, masking tape, three penny nails, card board strips, pieces of wood, unstrung wire hangers, old assorted batteries, a putty knife, two measuring tapes. In a small paper bag he found washers.
The boy removed a washer from the bag and weighed it judiciously in his hand. These particular ones had the weight of a quarter. He nodded to himself and slammed the drawer shut. The kitchen clock said 5:55 a.m.
He raced upstairs to the attic door, paused long enough to see if Grandma’s door was open, then unlatched the hook and eye and tip-toed up the attic’s steps.
The attic itself held no interest for him. Everything was packed away either in locked closets or locked trunks. Anything that might be of everyday use was locked in the cellar. In an empty room a window faced the street. It was unlocked and open.
Andy trotted over to the window, which was the old wooden type with lead weights on ropes hidden in the sills. Luckily, this window began at a foot from the floor, built for viewing scenery and just right for Andy’s project. Andy stood a shade over two feet.
He sat down before the window with the paper bag. Using both hands, he opened the window further, enough for him to stick his head out and see the street in front of his house.
Andy’s home lay in a nice residential neighborhood, a few blocks from Buck Haven’s elementary school. This particular street was a shortcut for pedestrians on their way to a shopping center. People could be seen walking in front of his house at any given hour. He didn’t have long to wait.
The first one was a man in green uniform with an aluminum lunch bucket under his arm. He wore a blue baseball cap and sunglasses. He walked fast, as if he might be late for his job.
Andy took aim and threw a washer down. He watched it sail down and just miss the man’s baseball cap. The washer landed in a turf of grass between the sidewalk and the street. The man didn’t hear it.
Less than a minute went by before another one came along. This one was a white-haired lady, hatless and used a cane. She hobbled painfully up the street, yet stopped to look about at every two steps as if to verify her direction.
Andy flipped another washer down. It fell in an arc toward the lady’s head and missed by a hair. This time it landed in the street with a loud metallic ting that even the boy could hear.
The lady’s head whipped around toward the sound. She lost her hobble and hurried into the street. With her cane she poked at the shiny metal piece on the pavement. She leaned down and picked it up. She examined it for a while as other pedestrians walked past her. The lady would watch them, and return her attention to the washer in her hand. Finally, the lady put the washer in her purse and got back on the sidewalk. Puzzled, she walked back the way she came.
Andy tried to spit on her but his skill lacked experience and could manage only a drop that the wind blew away. He sighed. He opened the paper bag and considered the washers. They were a handful.
A scuff sound alerted him. He looked down and saw a short muscular man, about middle-aged. The man wore black work-shoes and his bald head reflected the morning sunlight.
Andy smiled grimly. He upended the bag of washers into his hand and waited.
The man didn’t seem to be in any hurry. His pace appeared casual, except his gaze studied each house in a calculated fashion. His clothes were worn and ragged and yet, his eyes had a shine to them. He reached Andy’s house.
The boy flung the handful of washers down. He watched as the metallic rain floated toward the man’s head.
The man sensed something and looked up to see flashes of light descending on him. He turned away barely in time and caught the washers on the side of his head. He grabbed his head and yelled in pain.
While the man was bent over in agony, Andy gently closed the window. A complacent smile surfaced on his face. He crumbled the empty bag and put it in a pocket of his jumpsuit.
The sound of his parents’ alarm clock warned him to hurry. He thumped down the attic steps and latched the hook and eye. He stopped outside Grandma’s room to listen but didn’t hear anything. The doorknob to his parents’ room rattled.
Andy hopped across the hall to his room and slipped inside. He heard his mother say to his father:
“Did you hear the language from that fellow outside? He was staggering down the street, swearing for no reason. That booze….”
It was late morning. Father had left for work at seven-thirty. Grandma Bailey came downstairs for breakfast at nine-thirty and now sat in the living room. Andy, still in his orange jumpsuit and lying on the rug, nodded in front of the television set. A rerun of a Huckleberry Hound cartoon made manic noises as a giant fell from the sky (the beanstalk had been severed).
“Andrew.” Mother stood in the doorway to the living room. Andy and Grandma looked up.
“I’m going shopping. Your father needs some washers. He can’t find his… I don’t know. But Andrew, I want you to be a good boy.” Mother stared at Andy until he acknowledged her.
“Grandma Bailey,” she turned to Grandma in the chair, “would you look after Andrew? I’ll be back in time to make dinner.”
Grandma glanced at Andy and said, “Why of course I’ll watch the little dear, don’t worry. We’ll have lots of fun.” Her eyes became steely behind her round wire glasses.
Andy curled his lip.
Mother murmured something that sounded like, “Good.” Already dressed to shop, she exited the house.
“I think I’ll just mosey on into the kitchen,” Grandma mused aloud. “I feel a bit underfed.” She gave a sniff in Andy’s direction.
Andy watched Grandma shuffle out to the kitchen. He wasn’t tired anymore. He flicked off the TV and climbed the stairs to his room. Inside, he got out his toy gun (.38 caliber model) that shot rubber suction-tipped darts. The darts that he pulled from a cardboard box stashed under his bed were another matter. The rubber tips had been pried off and the plastic ends were sharpened to a fine point. He touched one end and gave a melodramatic, “Ouch!”
He held six of these darts. He crammed five in one pocket, and after he made sure the gun was loaded with the sixth dart, put the weapon in his other pocket. Satisfied, Andy opened his bedroom door carefully, and checked that the coast was clear. It was. He padded to Grandma’s room to check her door. Its lock worked only on the inside and, of course, was unlocked.
Andy opened the door. On the bed, the black cat lifted its head in surprise. It gave a tentative, “Meow?”
In the kitchen, Grandma cooked scrambled eggs. She checked to make sure the toast didn’t burn. Outside, the sun shone bright. Birds chirped and an occasional dog barked. Grandma grimaced at the sounds of barking.
A noise brought her head around. It came from the back hallway. Grandma turned off the fry pan and scooped her eggs onto a plate. The she bent over and opened a utility drawer. Inside was a selection of cooking knives and barbecue forks and potholders. She picked out the heavy meat cleaver.
She crept silently to the kitchen door and put an ear to its panel. It sounded like someone was at the cellar door and was trying to pick its lock. Also, there was another noise, like a subdued thumping. Grandma quietly peeked.
It was Andy. He was at the cellar door and stood on an ottoman from the living room. He poked a hairpin at the padlock while in his other hand he grasped a pillowcase. The pillowcase moved of its own accord and banged against the door. The sack stopped its activity to give a heartfelt, plaintive yowl before it resumed its desperate struggle.
Grandma yelled, “YAAAHHHH!” and raised the cleaver up over her head and charged.
Startled, Andy recovered in a flash. He dropped the pillowcase one way, and dived to the floor the other way.
Grandma brought the cleaver down with all her might onto the cellar door a mini-second after her grandson’s head vacated the same spot. The blade embedded itself a full two inches in the door. It stuck and Grandma tried in vain to jerk it free.
Andy brushed blond hair out of his eyes. He calmly took out his plastic gun and aimed it. Grandma glanced over her shoulder and saw the gun. She gave another yell, “Yaaahhhh!” but turned too late. The spring-driven dart penetrated her skinny rump. “Yaaahhhh!” Her thin housecoat proved no protection.
Andy took this opportunity to get to his feet and flee before his victim recovered enough to attack again. He ran up to his bedroom where he had more weapons stashed. Grandma seemed serious this time about their relationship.
If Grandma Bailey wanted war….
Meanwhile, Grandma pulled the dart out from her arse cheek and threw it on the floor. She knew that in the cellar were her son’s firearms. She didn’t have the key either. That darn boy, she thought. He’ll be the death of me yet.
A meow got her attention. “Fannie,” she said to her cat as she picked it up. “Where’s that aluminum baseball bat, hey?”
Grandma Bailey stood on the first attic step and peered upwards. She could see the cedar rafters and the wide boards of the roof. She listened… and heard nary a sound. Step by step she moved up, and with each step she could see more of the attic. After the roof boards and beams, the faded yellowish wallpaper that included country scenes came into view. Then she perceived the main floor and its worn linoleum with decorations of green vines and garden plants. The flooring had black trails where feet over the years had scuffed away its design.
She, ever so slowly, raised her head until just her eyes were above the stairway.
She took another step that brought her chest high to where the floor began. Most of the area to her right was in shadow because the sun had shifted to the west end of the house. Grandma squinted through her glasses at the doorway to the front room. Near its base, she thought there was a darker shadow.
She placed her hands on the floor and leaned forward to try and pick out what it was. A whiz, like an insect, buzzed past her ear. Something ricocheted off the far wall behind her. And she thought she saw the shadow by the door move.
Grandma had about made up her mind to ascend the stairs and investigate the front room when that same buzzing noise struck her glasses. She dropped like a stone.
No sound from above. She examined her glasses and quietly fumed at the spider-webbed crack in one lens. A fragment of metal on a step attracted her attention. Grandma picked it up and yelled, “Damn your eyes, boy!”
It was a three-penny nail.
Believing a good defense needed a strong offense, Grandma bounded up the steps, “Yaaahhhh!”
Andy had his slingshot ready and shot another three-penny nail at Grandma. Grandma lifted her left hand to disclose a heavy crock-pot lid. It served as a shield and easily deflected the missile. In her right she brandished the aluminum baseball bat.
Grandma charged before Andy could re-arm. She held the crock-pot lid face high and tucked the bat in close to her body like a battle lance. Andy retreated to the room’s window, apparently at her mercy.
Except that Grandma tripped on a triple-length of black yarn tacked across the doorway at ankle height. The lid flipped out of her hand and barely missed the window. It hit against the wall and clattered to the floor. She fell on the bat with a whoosh as the breath was knocked out of her.
Andy made to run past her but she grabbed a foot and dragged him down to her level. Then he drew out his gun to shoot, but she swatted the barrel as he pulled the trigger. The dart missed her head and harmlessly sailed through the open window.
Now Grandma whipped out a wood-handled carving knife from the belt of her housecoat. Her eyes became large as she lifted the knife skywards as if she sought to spear the ceiling. Andy struggled desperately to loosen his foot from her grasp, his bladder on the verge of letting go.
A car slowed in front. Grandma stopped the forward motion of her knife hand. Andy leaned over and peeked out the window.
Both jumped to their feet and ran downstairs. Grandma stopped in her room for a moment to switch glasses. Then she replaced the carving knife and crock-pot lid in the kitchen. Andy stopped in his room to empty his orange jumpsuit of darts, three-penny nails… and razor blades.
Mother entered by the front door and met them in the hall.
“Andy, you’re still wearing your jumpsuit at three o’clock? Have you been a naughty boy? You can’t stay with Grandma Bailey?
“Maybe I should take you to a daycare center instead of leaving you here to watch TV all day.” She tapped her toes, “Hmmm?”
Andy’s mouth opened in dismay.
“He was just a doll, just a doll,” Grandma interposed. “He listened so hard to my stories of long ago that we both forgot to get dressed.
“No need to take him away to some newfangled school. Next time I’ll make sure he gets dressed,” she assured Mother.
“We understand each other so well. Don’t we, dear boy?” Grandma winked at Andy.
Edward Turner lives in Biddeford, Maine with his wife, Amy and her black cat Fannie. His stories and essays have appeared in The Orange Willow Review, Maine Sunday Telegram, Fortean Bureau, Spring Hill Review, and a number of times in The North Shore Sunday, Flying Horse, and Sun Journal to name a few. His novel, Rogues Together, won the Eppie Award for best in Action/Adventure. He is currently working on his third novel and doing book reviews