The Crazy Old Bat and Football: Repost

As Matt and I are away celebrating our ten year anniversary with a much-needed vacation, I thought this week would be a perfect time to pull some of my favorite Matt stories from the archives. This post is one from my “Crazy Old Bat” short-story series, and it makes me giggle every time.

picture by chadfox on photobucket.com

Many people assume the children were to blame for making the old lady crazy, and while they did their part, there were other factors.  Genetics surely came into play, as there were some nuts on both sides of the old woman’s family. However, there was one more culprit that people were quick to overlook–the old lady’s husband.

Mr. Davis was a good man, and one would be hard-pressed to find another who disagreed.  The old lady loved her husband very much, and he loved her, and they shared a marriage full of joyous memories.

When Mrs. Davis thought of her husband, by no means did she picture a stoic man.  He was always affectionate to his children and could laugh at a good joke.  However, the crazy old bat would never say that Mr. Davis was emotional.  In fact, due to her own penchant for drama, she would sometimes wish that he were a little less self-controlled.

For example, on her wedding day, the crazy old lady secretly hoped that the beauty she radiated as a new bride would produce such a wellspring of emotion in her new husband that he would not be able to contain the little tears that would pool in his eyes.  Yet on that day, the old woman (then young, of course) did not get her wish.  As she walked down the aisle, her soon-to-be-husband smiled, clearly delighted that his betrothed kept her promise to be his bride, but he was not moved to tears.

The crazy old lady wasn’t disappointed; after all, everyone reacts differently to different situations, but she was certain the birth of their first child would overwhelm her husband.  She had a difficult labor, and when that little boy finally emerged, the only tears came from him and his mother.  His father looked emotionally spent, probably from worrying the last few hours but, again, did not cry.

Perhaps Mr. Davis would cry at the birth of his first daughter.  This labor was uneventful, no worrying necessary, so he could enjoy her birth and allow the happiness of his little girl’s arrival to wash over him producing that single tear.  When the little girl entered the world, Mrs. Davis glanced at her husband and again noticed a smile but no tears.

The crazy old lady was not crazy yet, so she knew better than to look for tears at the birth of their third child.  Mr. Davis and she rejoiced at the speedy surprise that was their second little girl but kept the dramatics to a minimum.  In fact, the only thing dramatic about this birth was how quickly the entire labor and delivery happened.

So given her history with Mr. Davis, the crazy old woman was a little bewildered on January 1st of 2010.  As she was cleaning up in the kitchen, she happened to look over at her husband who was red in the face and whose eyes appeared to be watering.  She followed his gaze to the T.V. and noticed the montage of football clips that he was watching.  She must have missed something.

“What’s got you so emotional?” she asked, not knowing if there were a good story behind one of the players that just flashed on the screen.

“I don’t know,” Mr. Davis replied.

Mrs. Davis’s gaze let her husband know that she needed a better explanation.

“Year-in-review college football reels always get me emotional.”

At that moment, one of the synapses in the crazy old bat’s brain sparked and fizzled out forever.

Click on the blue tag below to read more ‘Crazy Old Bat’ stories! What is something your spouse has done that has contributed to your own craziness?


Dead Fish and Nursing Gowns: A Short Story

 

Image courtesy of photobucket.com

“Sometimes it’s just hard to let go.”

I wish I had had something more comforting to say, but these words were all I could figure. I pulled Luke down to the floor on my lap as I stroked his thick, brown hair.

“But I don’t want to say goodbye, Mommy.”

“I know, baby; I know.”

“Will Sam go to heaven? Does God let fish in heaven?” He struggled to push the words out without falling into a mess of tears.

“Oh, I’d like to think so. God created fish, so I’m sure there’ll be fish there. And God knows how much you love Sam, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s up there swimming around waiting to see you again one day.”

I hugged him tighter; Luke was so sensitive. I had to get that belly-up fish out of his room.

“It’s okay to be sad, Buddy. It’s okay to cry. You loved Sam.”

And with my permission, the tears rolled down his hot, red cheeks.

“Look, I need to take Sam out of your room now.”

Geez. How was I going to do this? I had never dealt with a dead pet before. Flushing the fish down the toilet in front of a sobbing boy seemed as cruel as those funerals where they lowered the casket in front of the family.

“What are you going to do with him?” Luke asked. Except, I didn’t know. ‘Deal with the dead fish’ wasn’t on my original ‘to-do’ list.

“Well…I can’t leave him in this fishbowl like this. You don’t want to look at Sam like this…”

“Please don’t take him out of my room! Let him stay here!”

“Babe, we can’t keep a dead fish in–“

“Can I have a funeral for him?” Luke interrupted.

“Umm, I guess we can…if that’ll make you feel better.”  If giving a funeral for a dead fish would allow me to take the fish out of Luke’s room, I was all for it.

“Let me just get a box for him, sweetie. Why don’t you go pick some flowers in the backyard that we could use for the service?”

As Luke headed down the stairs, I hurried to my bathroom to bury Sam at sea. And once I bid him a final farewell, I dug through shoes and clothes in the bottom of my closet looking for a proper box with which to hold his ‘remains.’

So we spent the afternoon digging up dirt and picking dandelions from the backyard in order to give Sam a proper burial underneath the big pear tree in our yard. Luke said a few words, and I said a few words, and as the warm sun made its way into our eyes, I was suddenly very thankful that Sam chose to die during Elizabeth’s nap. Yes, he was a good fish.

The rest of the day was typical–dinner and play and baths and stories–but by the time Luke lay his head on his pillow, convinced that Sam would be in heaven, and I kissed the curls on Elizabeth’s sleeping head, I was ready for bed myself. I contemplated hitting the sack early, calling it a night, but then I remembered the bag of clothes I agreed to leave on my porch for the clothing pick-up in the morning. The bag that I had not yet gotten together.

I was rummaging through my drawers when I heard Brian coming up the stairs.

“Hi,” he said as he kissed my head. “What’cha doing?”

“Oh, the clothing pick-up’s tomorrow, and I’m sure I have plenty to give away in these drawers.” I motioned to the crowded t-shirts scrunched forming little mounds in their space. “The meatloaf’s warming in the oven, if you want to make our plates. Give me ten minutes, and I’ll come down.”

“All right. What do you want to drink?”

“I’ll just have some water,” I said with a small smile and then turned back to the drawers in front of me.

Cleaning out the drawers was faster work than I thought. As I grabbed t-shirt after t-shirt, I added more and more to the pile. There’s was no reason for me to have so many. I looked at the clock. It was five until eight. I could finish these drawers, eat dinner with Brian, and then call it a night. There would be enough in the bag for the pick-up tomorrow to be worth their while, and I could get the rest I so desperately wanted. Who knew the death of a fish could be so draining?

I started on my pajama drawer, wondering why I had so many since I always slept in t-shirts, then contemplating if I should hold on to them as I looked at the massive t-shirt pile. I decided against keeping most of the pajamas, throwing more clothes on the growing mound. I grabbed a nightgown that I had forgotten I had, a nursing gown that I last used two years ago.

I started to throw the gown on the pile, but then I stopped. I looked at it in my hands–the white gown that I wore in the hospital after both children were born, the gown that I wore in bed many nights during their first year of life to make three a.m. feedings a little easier–and I held it to my nose. I don’t know what I was expecting, perhaps the scent of a newborn, but I rubbed my cheek with the gown and held it there. And then I pulled it away, gave it one last look, and threw it on top of the pile.

I grabbed a few more items of clothing and tossed them on the pile. I opened the black trash bag beside me and stuffed everything in. Then I pushed my drawer closed, got up off my knees which cracked a little when I stood, and I headed down the stairs to join Brian for dinner. We talked about the day, the fish funeral, meetings with employees at work, the upcoming fall conference at school, and then we rinsed our dishes before closing them in the dishwasher to do the dirty work.

And then I drug myself back to my room and got ready for bed.

That night I closed my eyes as I nuzzled my cheek against my pillow and took a deep breath. Thoughts of ‘Sam’ beneath our tree and the kids dreaming in their beds filled my mind. Finally, sleep could come. But as sleep came over me, so did a picture of me in my nursing gown. I gently opened my eyes only to let them close again before drifting to sleep.

The next morning, though, I got up and headed straight to the full bag of clothes. I dug through the top layer until I saw the white cotton gown beneath some yellow pajamas. I grabbed the gown and threw it back in my drawer without giving it another look before heading to the bathroom.

Sometimes it’s just hard to let go.

Last Thursday, I was inspired by one of Mama Kat’s writing prompts to write a post beginning and ending with the same sentence. However, I stayed up until two a.m. Thursday morning finishing a photo book. Hey–cut me some slack! I had a coupon for 50% off that expired at 12 a.m. PST. Anyway, waking up early to write didn’t happen, so here is my short story a week and a day late.

 

 

 

The Crazy Old Bat and Amish Friendship Bread

It was a Sunday afternoon, and Mrs. Davis’s three grown children came to visit her at the retirement home.  They left their own families at home this time and were seated in their favorite section of the meeting room, on the left side closest to the windows.  Mrs. Davis sat in the green recliner that reminded her of one she and Mr. Davis had owned many years prior, and her two girls sat to her left while her son was to her right.  Across the room an old man sat in a chair snoring loudly as a football game played on the TV in front of him.

“Would you listen to him!” Mrs. Davis huffed.  “Every day it’s the same thing.  He comes to this room to watch his show, and he goes to sleep as soon as his head hits the back of the chair!”

“Sounds like my husband,” her oldest daughter, Hannah Grace, said out the side of her mouth.

“Sounds like me!” Chloe, her youngest, laughed.  Chloe had a new baby, and these visits were hard for her.  Her emotions were out-of-control anyway, and seeing her mother so different than the mother she knew for all these years was especially difficult.  Today was different, though.

Mrs. Davis was having a good day, and her children were enjoying the chance to talk to their mother while she was more herself.  They laughed a little as Mrs. Davis gave them the scoop on the other inhabitants of Sunny Valley, how Mr. Peterson threatened to rent a separate room for himself after his wife told him to lay off the chocolate syrup at the ice cream social, how she and Ms. Lowery went for a walk through the garden yesterday with her favorite nurse Elizabeth, how she was so grateful for her three children who never failed to visit.

The sun streamed through the windows behind Mrs. Davis, and Caleb, her son, followed with his eyes the path of dust dancing in the light beam from his mother’s shoulder back to the window.

“Do we need to close the blinds, son?” Mrs. Davis asked catching Caleb’s glance.

“Oh, no, Mom. I’m fine,” he assured her.

“I enjoy the warmth from the sun, if I do say so myself,” she said, uncrossing and recrossing her legs at the ankles.

The girls smiled as they look at their mother, so alert and unusually amiable on this particular day.

“Kids, I need to tell you something.”

Mrs. Davis’s sense of urgency caused all the kids to lean forward.

Hannah Grace uncrossed her legs and leaned forward, placing a gentle hand on her mother’s knee.

“What is it, Mom? ” she asked as she furrowed her brow.

“I want you all to know something, and I’ve been waiting to tell you until we were alone.”

“Well, what is it, Mom?” Caleb asked, very concerned.  Caleb was the worrier of the group, especially concerning his mother.  He didn’t enjoy the suspense.

“I know you all must wonder if you’re going to end up like me someday when you’re older…”

“Oh, Mom, don’t worry about that,” Caleb sat up, waving off her concern.  He wouldn’t have his mother feeling any guilt for her condition or the worry that it may cause them.

“…let me finish, dear,” she continued.  “You don’t need to worry,” she began, “because you won’t, at least you shouldn’t end up like me.”

The children were silent waiting for their mother to finish.

“This condition isn’t hereditary,” she continued.

The children all stole quick glances at one another.  They had done their research, talked to the doctors; they knew the odds of them getting their mother’s condition when they were older were slightly increased due to their mother having it.

“You see,” she went on, “you won’t inherit what I have because you gave it to me.”

“What?” Chloe asked, confused by this assertion from her mother.

“You did this to me,” replied Mrs. Davis, looking right at Chloe to answer her question.  “You and your brother and sister made me crazy.”

“Oh, Mom!” Hannah Grace sighed, rolling her eyes.

“Here we go!” Caleb exclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air.

Chloe’s lower lip began to tremble.

“I can tell you the exact day,” the crazy old bat went on with her story.  I was trying to make Amish Friendship Bread.  It was my turn to bring a snack to Bible Study. I had the starter mix on the counter.  I had to use the bathroom–heaven forbid!–and I was in the bathroom for 33.3 seconds!

She had begun to speak louder now, spacing her words more carefully for effect.

“I heard yelling, and I cracked the door to see what was happening.  Hannah Grace was running full speed toward the bathroom door”–she paused to turn toward Hannah Grace and then continued–“carrying the open bag of starter.  She obviously smelled the sugar. Caleb was running after her in pursuit of the bag.”

At this point in the story, Caleb began to shake his head, unclear as to where his mother was going with this story but not sure that he wanted to hear the end.

“Caleb, you always had to be the little informant. I’m surprised you didn’t go to work for the FBI!” She changed positions to stare at her son who looked back at her with a straight face.

“As Hannah Grace was fleeing from you, she left a trail of starter running from the kitchen to the bathroom, somehow even getting the bread starter on the walls!”

“Mom, I’m sure I spilled lots of things.  My kids spill lots of things.  How in the world could this be the cause of your condition?” Hannah Grace inquired, her shoulders moving up to her ears.

“I’m not yet finished.” The crazy old bat emphasized each word.

“Hannah Grace, I gave you a paper towel to begin cleaning up the mess you made while I tried to get back to the dinner I was making.  What was I making? I can’t remember…it’s not important…”

“As if any of this is important?” Chloe asked under her breath.

“I saw you were doing a terrible job, so I grabbed the paper towel from you so I could clean the mess myself.  Chloe, you, of course, woke up from your nap because it was the most inopportune time, and you were crying.  I didn’t want you to get in the mess, so I tried to clean faster. Then, I heard the dinner sizzling, so I went back to the stove to check on it.  I still had the paper towel in one hand as I was stirring with the other, and the next thing I knew, the paper towel was on fire!  On fire, I say!

“I ran to the sink, the towel aflame, and I turned the water on as quickly as I could.  As the water began to put out the fire, sparks flew up in the air and floated down on my hair. My hair!” She shrieks.  “What could I do? What else could I do?  I wasn’t going to let my whole head go up in flames!  So I began banging my head, beating my own head with my hands like a stinkin’ chimpanzee!  I was reduced to a chimpanzee!” she shouted.

The man who had been snoring across the room gave a loud snort and sat up sharply.

“And I’m sure I gave myself brain damage as a result of the incident,” Mrs. Davis said, her voice lowered, as she sat up primly and properly in the chair.

Mrs. Davis’s three children looked at each other, and then their mother, not sure of what to say next.

“Well, now, kids, what do you have planned for the rest of your Sunday?” she asked after a moment.

The rest of the afternoon visit was spent amidst one-word answers and somber faces until Caleb finally ended the visit.

“I love you, Mom,” he said getting up and giving his mother a kiss on the cheek.  “I’ll see you next Sunday with the kids.”

“I’ll look forward to it, dear,” Mrs. Davis answered with a smile.

Chloe and Hannah Grace followed their brother, hugging and kissing their mother, squeezing her hand before letting go and walking away.  The three siblings spoke quietly as they made their way to the door letting them out into the fall breeze under a beautiful blue sky.

“Mom certainly has a way with words, doesn’t she?” Chloe offered to the group.

“I’m always amazed at how quickly she can make me feel guilty,” Hannah Grace admitted.

Caleb stopped and looked at his sisters.

“Well, today’s visit taught me one thing. Apparently Mom was crazy a whole lot earlier than we realized.”

The three siblings continued walking, three bodies in a line, until they reached their cars and drove home.

For more encounters with “The Crazy Old Bat,” click here.

Civic Duty and the Crazy Old Bat

Caleb, Chloe, and Hannah Grace looked on as their mother visited with their kids.  She sat with a stern look while the children obediently, albeit reluctantly, engaged in polite conversation.

“Grandma, I hit a double last night and got an RBI.  We ended up winning our game,” said Caleb’s son, the most talkative of the grandchildren.

“Very good,” his grandmother nodded. “Your father was excellent at sports.”

“What about you?” the old woman directed her question at the pretty blonde girl.

“I’m still dancing, Grandma.  I have my jazz recital coming up in a few weeks. You can come, if you want.”

“Hmmph,” snuffed her grandmother.  “If I wanted to watch half-naked girls dancing all over the place, I’d turn on HBO.  I can’t believe your mother lets you get up on stage looking like a floozy.  Thanks to the girls who went to Woodstock, you teenagers think you need to take off your clothes all the time to impress people.  Well, you’re not impressing me!”

The pretty blonde turned her head slightly so that she could roll her eyes, crossed one leg over the other, and cupped her chin in her hand.  They had all heard this story a million times, and she wasn’t interested in learning about the beginning of the downfall of society any more.

“Looking back, do you think Mom ever showed signs of having dementia–I mean, earlier on in life?” Chloe asked her brother and sister.  She tucked her legs under her and shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position on the long green couch where she had been resting.

Hannah Grace looked up thoughtfully from her place on the couch, but it was Caleb who spoke first.

“I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.  And I don’t know why, but this one event always stands out in my mind.”

Of course, Caleb jumped right to the end of the story, not knowing or understanding the thoughts in his mother’s mind that led to this one moment.  He didn’t remember the events of the day that helped create his mother’s state of mind. If he had, this particular event would’ve taken a very different spot in his memory than it did.

There wasn’t anything special about this day many years back in the old woman’s life.  In fact, she would’ve told you the day was anything but special.  The 30-something year old woman was convinced she was raising little elves, grappling at her knees, whining their high-pitched requests all day long.  No one was listening to her, and she was so tired–not just physically tired but mentally exhausted.

It was one of those days when she doubted her ability as a mother.  She wondered many times, “Am I doing my children more harm than good by staying home?  Should I just a get a job and make all of us happy?”  Of course, she didn’t want to go back to work, but she felt ineffective.  She tried to discipline her children, but nothing seemed to stick–time-outs, they were pointless; swats on the bottom–they made her feel guilty.  How could she correct her children’s behavior if she didn’t even know in which method she believed?

When she heard her husband’s car pull into the driveway, she left the dinner she was attempting to prepare to meet him.  She gave him the baby that was on her hip and left the two little elves that were following at her heels.  Amidst the cries of, “Daddy, Daddy!” she fled to the mailbox.  She pulled out the stack of mail and began flipping through the long envelopes.

She began her slow walk back towards the house and stopped suddenly.  Mr. Davis looked up from the children gathered around his ankles and headed down the driveway towards her.

“What’s wrong?” he questioned, concerned by the look on his wife’s face.

And it was at this point in the story that Caleb began.

He described how the crazy old lady bent down and scooped up her daughter, swinging her around.  She then grabbed Caleb and gave him a huge kiss on the cheek.

“Nothing,” she answered, smoothing the hair on the baby’s head, a smile forming on her lips.  “Nothing at all.”

She turned this particular envelope around to show her husband the dark letters that stood out through the plastic window. She actually had tears in her eyes.

“I have jury duty.” The words left her mouth like a sigh of relief. She continued on into the house, a slight bounce in her step.

“Caleb,” Hannah Grace chimed in, “I don’t think Mom’s being excited about jury duty had anything to do with her dementia.”

“I know,” Caleb said.  “I guess her reaction seemed strange to me, especially later on after I learned what jury duty was.”

Chloe looked over at the kids.  Caleb’s son had just said something to annoy the pretty blonde, and she slapped him hard on the arm.  “Maybe,” Chloe said.  “But I think I understand.”

If you’d like to read more short stories in “The Crazy Old Bat” series, click on “Crazy Old Bat” in the tag cloud or the links below:

The Elephant in the Room: A Short Story

New Year’s With the Crazy Old Bat

The Crazy Old Bat and Football

The Crazy Old Bat and Football

Many people assume the children were to blame for making the old lady crazy, and while they did their part, there were other factors.  Genetics surely came into play, as there were some nuts on both sides of the old woman’s family. However, there was one more culprit that people were quick to overlook–the old lady’s husband.

Mr. Davis was a good man, and one would be hard-pressed to find another who disagreed.  The old lady loved her husband very much, and he loved her, and they shared a marriage full of joyous memories.

When Mrs. Davis thought of her husband, by no means did she picture a stoic man.  He was always affectionate to his children and could laugh at a good joke.  However, the crazy old bat would never say that Mr. Davis was emotional.  In fact, due to her own penchant for drama, she would sometimes wish that he were a little less self-controlled.

For example, on her wedding day, the crazy old lady secretly hoped that the beauty she radiated as a new bride would produce such a wellspring of emotion in her new husband that he would not be able to contain the little tears that would pool in his eyes.  Yet on that day, the old woman (then young, of course) did not get her wish.  As she walked down the aisle, her soon-to-be-husband smiled, clearly delighted that his betrothed kept her promise to be his bride, but he was not moved to tears.

The crazy old lady wasn’t disappointed; after all, everyone reacts differently to different situations, but she was certain the birth of their first child would overwhelm her husband.  She had a difficult labor, and when that little boy finally emerged, the only tears came from him and his mother.  His father looked emotionally spent, probably from worrying the last few hours but, again, did not cry.

Perhaps Mr. Davis would cry at the birth of his first daughter.  This labor was uneventful, no worrying necessary, so he could enjoy her birth and allow the happiness of his little girl’s arrival to wash over him producing that single tear.  When the little girl entered the world, Mrs. Davis glanced at her husband and again noticed a smile but no tears.

The crazy old lady was not crazy yet, so she knew better than to look for tears at the birth of their third child.  Mr. Davis and she rejoiced at the speedy surprise that was their second little girl but kept the dramatics to a minimum.  In fact, the only thing dramatic about this birth was how quickly the entire labor and delivery happened.

So given her history with Mr. Davis, the crazy old woman was a little bewildered on January 1st of 2010.  As she was cleaning up in the kitchen, she happened to look over at her husband who was red in the face and whose eyes appeared to be watering.  She followed his gaze to the T.V. and noticed the montage of football clips that he was watching.  She must have missed something.

“What’s got you so emotional?” she asked, not knowing if there were a good story behind one of the players that just flashed on the screen.

“I don’t know,” Mr. Davis replied.

Mrs. Davis’s gaze let her husband know that she needed a better explanation.

“Year-in-review college football reels always get me emotional.”

At that moment, one of the synapses in the crazy old bat’s brain sparked and fizzled out forever.

New Year’s With the Crazy Old Bat

The family all sat gathered around the long, rectangular-shaped table.  It was modestly decorated with a white paper tablecloth and a colorful attempt at a New Year’s centerpiece–some purple, blue, and green streamers surrounding a party hat.  The matriarch of the family was seated at the center with her guests surrounding her.  To her left, her oldest daughter and son-in-law, to her right, her son and his wife, and across from her sat her youngest daughter and son-in-law.  The rest of the table was filled with grandkids.

The family carried on in quiet chit-chat as the old lady’s children took turns showing her affection, the occasional rubbing of her back, a small pat on her hand.  The old lady seemed unmoved by their quiet gestures, taking turns staring at a spot on her plate of food and occasionally straight ahead of her, although it was not clear at what she was looking.  She grimaced most of the meal and said little other than the unintelligible gibberish that left her mouth.

In a sudden display of alertness, the crazy old lady pulled out her dentures and slammed them down rather dramatically on the table.  Then as if nothing strange had happened, she continued to eat her meal, slurping down her red Jell-O.

“Umm…does anyone else think it’s strange that Grandma just took her teeth out to eat her dinner?” asked a teenaged boy on the right side of the table.

His father glared at him in a way to let him know he better not say another word.

A pretty blonde girl leaned back in her chair looking behind the row of adults and made eye contact with her cousin at the other side of the table.  She mouthed, “She’s crazy” and rolled her eyes.

“So, Mom,” began her son.  “What is your favorite holiday memory?”

Without missing a beat, the crazy old woman who had said little the whole afternoon snapped, “Thanksgiving 2009!”

“Oh, really, Mom?  Tell us about that Thanksgiving.  I must’ve been just a baby” said the daughter across from her.  Her big eyes sparkled with anticipation.

“I got my appendix out.  First great night’s sleep I had in four years.  No one bothered me, and it was glorious!” the crazy old woman replied with a snort.

The sparkle in her daughter’s eyes seemed to fade a bit.

“Oh, Mom, I’m sure you have other fun holiday memories,” encouraged her other daughter with a squeeze of her hand and a gentleness in her voice.

“Fun?  Ha! Sure, Hannah Grace, if you think Christmas was fun for me when you peed all over your grandmother’s lap and ruined her outfit!”

“I’m sure she was no more than two when that happened, Mom,” her son defensively stated.

“Okay, Caleb.  Your turn.  You think my favorite holiday memory should be when you decided you wanted to be a Chippendale, huh?  When you stripped-down naked and jumped in front of your grandma with a ‘ta-da’! Thank God your aunt had her inhaler!

The teenagers began to whisper to each other.

“What’s a Chippendale?  What’s she talking about?”

“I don’t know.  Some cartoon chipmunks, I think.”

“Chloe, do you have anything to add?” asked the crazy old bat.

Chloe didn’t say a word, afraid of what old memory her mother would dredge up from her bitter soul.

The family continued on quietly with their meal.

“Grandpa must’ve been a saint to put up with her,” whispered the blonde teenaged girl.  “Either a saint or just crazy like her.”

“You say you’re sorry right now!” ordered the crazy woman.

“I thought she couldn’t hear wel–“

“Say you’re sorry right now for disrespecting your grandfather, or he will come visit you in the night and bite your toes!”

“I–I’m sorry, Grandpa,” stammered the girl, not quite sure where to look as she delivered her apology to her late grandfather.

“Hmmph!” snuffed the crazy bat.

The matriarch’s children and children-in-law shifted uncomfortably in their chairs as they finished their meals.  They tried to continue on in polite conversation amidst the tension.

Finally, the eldest said, “Well, Mom, I think we’d better go.  It’s getting late.”  He got up and kissed her on the cheek.  “Is there anything you need us to bring the next time we visit?”

The crazy old lady shook her head ‘no’.

Both of her daughters got up and hugged her, stroked her hair while kissing her goodbye, the goodbye’s especially painful for them.  Their spouses and children followed suit and gave the old woman the expected hugs and kisses before leaving.  Many “I love you’s” left the mouths of the family to which the old woman barely nodded her head while finding that spot in front of her to fix her gaze.

As the rest of the family began to make their way to the nursing home door, the three children stayed behind next to their mother’s wheel chair.  Caleb grabbed the handles and began to push her.

“Elizabeth can take me the rest of the way,” the crazy woman directed toward a nurse in the hallway.

“We don’t mind, Mom.  We’d love to take you to your room.”

“Elizabeth will take me.”

A woman around the age of the crazy bat’s children gingerly walked toward the wheelchair.  “You’re ready to go to your room, Mrs. Davis?”

“Yes, Elizabeth, thank you.”

The three children, slightly hurt but also used to this behavior, each gave their mother one final kiss, whispered another ‘goodbye’ and walked back toward the front door.

Elizabeth continued wheeling the old woman down the hall to her room on the right.

As she helped the old woman out of her chair and onto the side of her bed, Elizabeth thought she noticed the old woman’s eyes were moist, but before she could really examine, the crazy old lady complained, “Why do you all keep it so cold?  It’s bad enough that we’re here–why do you have to try to freeze us to death, too?

Elizabeth quickly moved toward the door and adjusted the thermostat.

“That should be better, Mrs. Davis.  Is there anything else you need before I go?”

“No.  I like you, Elizabeth,” she stated matter-of-factly.  “You know Elizabeth is my youngest’s middle name.”

“Yes, Ma’am.  You’ve told me before.”

“She’s a good girl.  All three of them are good.  They drive me crazy, but they’re good.”

“Yes, Ma’am.  You have a wonderful family.”

“Well, get going!” the crazy old bat snapped.  “I don’t want to have a slumber party in here!”

Elizabeth gave a half smile before turning and leaving.

The crazy old bat rubbed her feet while shifting the dentures in her mouth.  For a moment, her mouth creeped into a smile, and then, just as quickly as it came, it was gone.

“Darn kids,” she muttered.

The Elephant in the Room: A Short Story

“Look at her!” the oldest boy directed with an air of superiority.

“I don’t want to look at her,” the pre-teen girl whispered.  “She scares me a little.”

“Aw, come on,” he egged her on.  “She shouldn’t scare you. She’s just a crazy old bat!” he nodded his straight brown hair in the direction of the old lady.

“Well, I think she’s gross,” the pretty blonde huffed, looking at her nails.  “Look–she’s drooling.”

All eyes fastened on the old woman who was in fact drooling.  A group of adults surrounded her, one woman rubbing her back, but the old lady didn’t seem to notice.  She sat slightly hunched forward with her feet solidly planted, legs apart.  Her knee-high panty hose were actually ankle-high now, neatly rolled above her tennis shoes.  Her flower print dress was predominantly a pale green that accentuated her eyes, the only part of her body that seemed alert and in the present.  They were piercing eyes, and as if sensing her grandchildren’s glances, she sharply turned her head and stared back at them across the sterile room.

“Elephant in the room–Ha!  I couldn’t pretend I didn’t see it if I wanted to!” she spat at them, her dentures shifting in her mouth.

The three oldest children quickly turned back to the little circle they made with their bodies on the couch, afraid of meeting her eyes again. The younger ones lying on the floor pushing cars back and forth to each other didn’t even notice the outburst.

“What is she talking about?!” the pretty blonde asked, rolling her eyes and not caring to hear the answer.

“Oh, who knows?” the boy answered.  “She’s always talkin’ about some stupid elephant.”

“My mom says she used to be an officer in the Air Force,” the youngest of the three whispered, afraid of attracting the old woman’s attention.  “It’s hard to believe now….” her voice trailed off.

“Oh, Aunt Chloe’s always sticking up for Grandma,” he retorted.  I don’t believe she was in the Air Force at all.  Can you picture her leading anybody?  The only thing I can picture her leading is the line on Jell-O night!”

The sarcastic boy quieted down as a group of adults walked over.

“Well, I think Grandma is getting tired,” a distinguished-looking man observed as he placed his hand on his son’s shoulder.  He had the same eyes as his mother’s, hazel-green, but bigger and more pleasant. “You kids need to tell her goodbye.”

The youngest children on the floor obediently got up and went over to the old woman.

“Dad, was Grandma really in the Air Force?” the oldest boy asked.

“Yes, before I was born.”

“Have you seen pictures as proof?”

“Well what kind of question is that?” asked a rather soft-spoken woman, obviously offended by the question.

“Oh, Aunt Chloe, I just was wonderin’.  I have a hard time picturing Grandma leading a group of people, is all.”

“You know, Grandma wasn’t always like this,” a stylishly dressed woman jumped in, gesturing to her mother on the other side of the room. “She was actually very intelligent at one time.”

“Well, what happened?” asked the youngest girl, still in a very small voice, “you know, to make her this way.”

The group looked over just as the old lady began swatting at something invisible to them.

“Well, honestly, I think Chloe was the breaking point for Mom,” the stylish woman eagerly volunteered.

“Wha-?” Chloe began, but the other woman continued.

“Three was obviously too much for her.  You came along, with your seven days without pooping, screaming at night…Mom said she went five years without getting a full night’s sleep…the sleep deprivation just did her in.”

“I was just a baby!  How can you hold me solely responsible for Mom’s condition, Hannah Grace!  If anything, you and Caleb drove her crazy!  She always said so!  In fact, I think I know the exact minute she lost it.  Mom is always talking about elephants–you two were the ones who embarrassed her at church knocking down that inflatable elephant in the lobby!  She said it was eight feet tall, and all the men in the lobby were trying to stop you, but you two just laughed and pushed it over and kicked it–I’m sure she felt like a failure as a mother.”

“Okay, ladies.  I think we’re all being a little dramatic here.  I’m sure none of us is responsible for Mom’s condition.  These things happen with age,” the distinguished man answered matter-of-factly.

“Oh, please, Caleb,” Hannah Grace snapped.  “You just don’t want to get us started on you!”

“Me? I wasn’t any trouble.  I always did very well in school, didn’t give my teachers any problem.  I mean, Hannah Grace, if you really want to play this game, you peed on your teacher at church.  I’m sure that was a bigger embarrassment for Mom than my involvement in knocking over some fake elephant!

“Well, Caleb, in all fairness to Hannah Grace, you had the bigger problem with pee,” Chloe gently chimed in.

“Okay, here we go!” he threw up his hands in the air in disgust.

“I mean, you almost set your room on fire.”

“Chloe, you couldn’t even remember that!  You were a baby.  Heck–I’m not sure if I actually remember it or if I just heard the story a thousand times!”

“Chloe’s right,” Hannah Grace interjected. “If anyone’s responsible, it’s you.  Who pees on their wall?  I mean, really!  Were you aiming for the electric socket, or did it just get in the way of the urine design you were painting? When was your first clue that this wasn’t normal behavior–when the socket started sparking?”

“Enough, enough,” Caleb said softly, hanging his head in shame.

The sarcastic boy looked up at his father in horror.  “Is..is it true, Dad?” he asked incredulously.

Caleb sighed.  “Yes, Son. It’s true.”

“Yuck.  That’s disgusting, Uncle Caleb,” the pretty blonde spit the words as if they tasted bad.

“Poor Grandma,” the other girl whispered.

“Yes, poor Grandma,” Hannah Grace agreed.  “She was a good woman.  It’s such a shame, such a shame.”

Slowly, the remaining grandchildren made their way to their grandma to kiss her goodbye.

“Darn pigs all over the place,” the old woman muttered under her breath, not talking to anyone in particular.