My granny was a terrible person.
A crotchety old woman that was hardly over one hundred pounds soaking wet, she would sit in her rocking chair all day long and scowl while watching her TV game shows. She looked like a skeleton with cracked leather clinging to her bones and wisps of colorless hair sticking out from a mostly bald scalp. And she was mean. If I tried to play Legos in the living room?
“You better clean those up, boy, or you’ll regret the day you were born!”
If I laughed too loudly at whatever TV program was on?
“Stop that racket! That junk will rot your brain!”
If I so much as walked too fast?
“Quit rough housing or else!”
And that ‘or else’ wasn’t an empty threat. Granny had a big cane she carried, a dark redwood one with a raven’s head for the handle. I’m pretty sure she could’ve just used a walker to get around the house, she just liked the impression the big ole cane gave off. When she walked about, she’d smack it down with each step, hard enough to make the floor shake. If she wanted to be sneaky though she’d not made a peep until she was right behind you. Then, with her acidic voice and stale breath, she’d whisper into your ear,
“And just what do you think you’re doing?”
I wasn’t a bad child. Not really. I didn’t get a chance to be. But Granny made me so nervous I’d often forget to do things, like pick up my toys or not run indoors. And when Granny caught me, oh I’d really would regret the day I was born.
Granny didn’t just spank you with her hand. She used that cane, and she’d take it across your back and your butt with all the strength in her shriveled body. It only took one whack to make you never want to sit again, and she usually brought it down three or four times. Never while mom or dad was around though. Nope. They never got to see the spankings. Granny was too clever, I suppose she knew they wouldn’t stand for that.
I hated my grandmother. From a young age I knew I hated her. She wasn’t ever involved in my life except to cause me pain and humiliation. Invitations to school recitals and plays were met with scoffs. I actually tried a few times to have her come, maybe getting out of the damn house would make her lighten up a bit.
Nope. She would laugh and say, “I’d rather jab my ears out with an ice pick than hear you screech on stage while calling it music, Alan.”
She wasn’t quite so cruel when mom was in hearing distance, but she still wasn’t kind about it. It was a nightmare. I’d go to bed crying and I’d never have friends over. I was too ashamed and I had no doubt that in one way or another Granny would drive them away.
I only had the courage to bring over a friend one time. Kendra Reilly.
She was a fun girl, with red pigtails tied with neon green scrunchies and glasses with round lenses and cheetah print frames. She was amazing. We both liked to sit on the swings and sing during recess. We’d hold little concerts. Kendra, being the goofball she was, would ask for tips afterwards in the form of desserts or crackers. Shockingly that sometimes worked, but she always made sure to split them evenly with me. It was half my work after all, according to Kendra.
I thought maybe it’d be okay to invite her over just once. Granny was laid up in bed more often than not at the time and I figured, why not?
I walked in and was immediately met with Granny’s loud screeching voice, “Wipe off your feet on the mat or else!”
Kendra’s eyes went wide and my heart sank. “Let’s just go play in my room,” I whispered before taking her hand and sneaking past Granny. She didn’t seem to notice that there were two pairs of soft footsteps going up the stairs, she was too focused on Family Feud.
Once we were away from Granny things got better again. I turned on my Disney music and we sang along, Kendra talked about a funny dream she had last night, when it was just us it was fun.
Then my door slammed open and there was my Granny. She took one look at Kendra and her face went red as tomato sauce.
“Why is there a girl in your room?!” She shrieked before slapping me across the face, hard enough to leave a handprint.
I was only nine years old at the time. I immediately burst into tears. “I’m sorry Granny! We just… just wanted to play…”
My sniffles went unheard as Granny grabbed Kendra by the ear and started yanking her out the door. “Come here, you little hussy! Going into boy’s rooms at your age, you’re going to end up barefoot and pregnant before you’re sixteen!” Kendra started to scream and tried to pull away but Granny was unrelenting.
I think I finally snapped. I was so tired of the years of torment, all the times I felt ashamed of having such a cruel grandmother, and seeing her attack one of my only friends just pushed me over my limit.
I didn’t shove her hard, just rough enough so she’d let go. Granny fell back on her butt with a yelp and then she clutched her chest.
“Oh! My heart! My heart!”
At first I thought she was being overdramatic, that she was trying to make me seem like some sort of monster child so my parents would ground me. But she wasn’t. Her face went gray before her eyes rolled back and she passed out.
Granny survived two days in the hospital before finally passing away.
I was torn between the feeling of finally being free and the grief that I was the one who caused her heart attack. Kendra and I lied, saying that Granny just marched upstairs, started shouting, and then she had the heart attack. Nothing about me shoving her.
My parents were quiet during the funeral. I somehow fell asleep to the minister’s monotone voice. Had horrible nightmares in which Granny burst from the coffin and wrung my neck screaming about how I murdered her. I woke up and had to excuse myself to the restroom, I’d wet myself in fear.
The next week was quiet. I was so used to Granny watching game shows or her shouting at me for something I had done. It was almost relaxing.
I should’ve known the peace was at an end when I came home to find my mother sobbing at the kitchen table while my father was resting a hand on her back. I heard her say, “I thought she was gone this time!” before I finally looked at the stove.
A woman with dark hair in a tight bun and wearing a long black dress with a high neck was stirring some sort of soup. Judging by the smell it was cabbage. She turned to me, her eyes fastened on me like a hawk on its prey.
“Alan, you’re late for dinner. I expect you to be home at five PM every week day. Where’s your homework?”
My mother wailed before burying her face in her hands. I looked beside the woman at the stove, where something was resting against the counter.
A cane with a raven’s head for the handle.
And suddenly I recognized the woman standing there at the stove cooking dinner.
That night ‘Granny’ came into my room. I was numb with shock. I didn’t understand. Was this really Granny? Was it a clone? Or was this some warped dream?
The door creaked open and I nearly hid under my bed as the dark haired woman walked into my room, her head held high. I pulled the blankets over me as I shook. I thought I was going to die.
When I looked into her eyes, I knew she was truly Granny. Gray like cement and colder than dry ice. Granny glided across the room before she sat at the foot of my bed. She rested her chin on her cane, seemingly lost in thought for several minutes before she chuckled.
“You’re a lot like your mother you know. She actually put rat poison in my breakfast. She wanted me gone too.”
I didn’t say anything.
Granny’s gaze rested on me again and her mouth was twisted in a morbid smirk.
“I only want what’s best for you, Alan. When you listen to me, things will go according to plan. I suppose I just have to be stricter with you. Now, I expect you to be home by five every day. Call me Nanny now, your mother hired me to take care of you because of what happened to your poor grandmother. Start bringing Kendra with you- are you listening or are you nodding off?”
I couldn’t have fallen asleep even if I tried, I bobbed my head up and down frantically.
“Good boy. Start bringing Kendra here. Not to your room. Girls that want to be in boy’s rooms by that age are no good. Don’t give her any ideas but keep her around. Keep your grades above a B or you’ll be punished. Your room must be clean before you leave the house. When you start going out on the weekends, you must give me a week’s notice and perform extra well in your chores. And don’t you try to get rid of me. You won’t like it when I come back. Is that clear, Alan?”
I opened my mouth but what came out was, “What will happen if I don’t listen to you?”
Granny laughed. A creepy, flat sound that scratched my ears and made the hair stand up on my neck.
“You’ll lose your privileges. Your mother used to be able to have a job, go out on Saturday nights, be married so someone she loved… be allowed two children. She lost those privileges. As long as you listen, Alan, you won’t ever have to fear losing your privileges.”
I’m now eighteen. Nanny has ordered me to propose to Kendra tonight. We’re only kids. We’re in love. But we’re not ready.
But I don’t want to lose any more of my privileges.