THAT DAY AT GRANDMA’S
Gregory L. Norris
That morning, Shane said, “Mom, I’d like to spend today at Grandma’s.”
His mother, who stood at the sink washing dishes, shot him a look through narrowed eyes. “You have school.”
“School isn’t as important as Grandma Bernice. Besides, it’s almost my birthday.”
Dishes clinked in the lime green plastic tub. “So?”
“So, this year the only present I want for my birthday is to spend time with Grandma. Can you drop me off at her place?”
Their eyes again met, Shane’s without blinking though, after a few seconds, his gaze resumed wandering around the kitchen, lingering on the dining table and four chairs and the view of the spring yard beyond the windows.
“Mom,” he said, “I’m sorry for being a loud and obnoxious kid.”
“All kids are loud and obnoxious,” she said. “Teenagers are just louder and more obnoxious.”
“I promise I’ll try harder,” he said.
A smile cracked his mother’s tired expression. “Wow, and my birthday was last month. Why do you want to go to Grandma Bernice’s?”
“To write a story. I think I’m going to be a writer.”
“No medical school?” she said dryly.
“What about being a German translator for the U. N.?”“No, and yes,” he said, nonplused. “I’ll probably also be a veterinarian, an astronaut, a radiologist, and a translator for the United Nations. But only in the stories that I write.”
“You can’t write this story at school?”
“No. School doesn’t matter. Grandma does. Besides, I’m dying for a cup of her coffee and one of her fried egg sandwiches.”
Shane’s mother wiped her hands on the dishtowel, which bore a rustic country rooster weathervane. “Okay, but call your grandma first. Make sure it’s okay and she doesn’t mind you hanging around her apartment all day.”
“I remember the number. I never forgot it.”
“I should hope not. She’s had the same phone number for a million years.”
“Mom,” said Shane, “you’re a great mother. Not just good or okay or so-so, which everyone says about their mom. But really, truly great.”
Shane’s mother straightened. “Who are you? What did you do with my son?”
“How about I finish the dishes and you take a break.”
Shane moved slowly about the first floor apartment in the brick building at 4 Daisy Street, his wide eyes lingering on details like the fans of painted pink coral on the parlor wall interspersed among family portraits and a print of the village blacksmith.
“Honey-bunch,” Grandma Bernice said.
Shane rolled his eyes. “Grandma, please say that again.”
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She repeated the nickname. They hugged. After several seconds, Grandma Bernice moved away, but Shane held on.
“So to what do I owe this wonderful spring surprise?”
“I needed to spend some time with you. It’s been too long,” Shane said. “And there’s this story I have to write today, and I really wanted to write it here.”
Bernice poured hot water from the silver kettle into another of the glass globe coffee cups. “I’m honored, but why here?”
“Look around this place,” Shane said, puffing out a sigh at the end of the declaration. “It’s so joyous. And you, you’re an awesome grandmother.”
Grandma Bernice beamed. “Thank you, Shane.”
He took the coffee cup into which she had spooned instant, sugar, and milk. Shane sipped. “This is the best cup of coffee ever. All the decades of coffee made in coffee makers to follow can’t compare.”
She waved a hand at him and resumed her game of solitaire. “Stop it, you sound crazy.”
“Maybe I am. Crazy for one of your super-duper amazing fried egg sandwiches.”
He ate it slowly, savoring the toast, buttered to perfection, and the golden yolk, which popped magically over his taste buds.
“Eat up. I’ll make you another,” Grandma Bernice said.
She stood at the stove. The skillet sizzled.
“I think it’s that cast iron pan,” Shane said. “That and, of course, you. The love you put into all of your cooking.”
“It’s what makes your fried egg sandwiches so delicious.”
“They’re only fried egg sandwiches.”
“No, Grandma, they’re proof of Heaven.”
Grandma Bernice flipped the egg. “That’s a very big compliment.”
“I’m trying to be more grown up and appreciative of the many good things in my life, the blessings.”
“You’re one of my biggest blessings, Shane.”
Shane sipped the last of his coffee. “Can I come by more often?”
“You can visit as often as you want. Every day.”
“And you’ll make coffee?”
“Yes, and fried eggs.”
Shane exhaled. “Good. I tried to cook one like yours once and accidentally sprinkled the egg with allspice—I thought it was pepper.”
Grandma Bernice made a face and a sound. Shane laughed. The sun came out, and that warm May day renounced the last of its gray pallor.
“What did your mother think of the news about your writing?” Bernice asked during a commercial break.
“That it’s a fad, like being a scientist. Remember how I was going to cure old age so you’d live forever?”
“I do,” Grandma Bernice said. “You were going to discover the Fountain of Youth.”
“I think I have,” Shane said. “I’m going to write about you, and those stories and novels will get published in formats as-yet undreamed of, and you will live for as long as the written word prevails.”
Grandma Bernice covered her heart. “You’re my young genius.”
“I love you, Grandma.”
“Your mother will come around. She’ll believe in you, in time.”
“I know,” Shane said.
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Set to a soapy soundtrack of commercial jingles and the whispers of the warm breeze, she asked him what the story was about.
Shane’s pen ceased its whirls. He glanced up and his gaze wandered around the room. “It’s about a very old man dreaming very young dreams,” he eventually answered. “The man, near the end of his long life, has discovered that, after a lifetime of dreaming, of conditioning himself to dream, he can travel backward through time through those dreams and through pathways and neurons and memories, which he’s accessed by a kind of creative evolution. It isn’t time travel in the conventional sense; there are no slingshots through event horizons, no exceeding the speed of light. No time machines or mechanisms beyond his burning desire to be with those people in his past who matter the most. Those beautiful better angels he misses so much and needed to be with again as he lies dreaming in a darkened room in the world that exists at an impossibly distant future date.”
Their eyes met.
Shane blinked. “That’s what the story is about, Grandma.”
“It’s a wonderful story. I’m glad you wrote it today, here with me.”
Shane nodded and resumed writing. Outside the apartment, a car traveling down Daisy Street honked its horn. The warm breeze giggled and played with the sunny Cape Cod curtains and, on both the page and somewhere far away, an old man dreamed.
Food for Thought
“That Day at Grandma’s” is an unusual piece for Sci Phi Journal because it is about a young writer, writing science fiction. It is such a beautiful story and I loved it when I first read it. It is a sublime story about the simple pleasures of spending time with family and seeking immortality at the same time.
About the Author
Gregory L. Norris writes full-time from the outer limits of New Hampshire’s North Country. Raised on a healthy diet of creature double features and classic SF/F/H TV shows, Norris has written for television and film, novels, for national magazines, and numerous fiction anthologies. His latest release, Tales From the Robot Graveyard, features a foreword by Star Blazers’ Amy Howard Wilson and cover art by Battlestar Galactica conceptual artist Eric Chu. Follow his literary adventures on FB and at his tiny wedge of virtual real estate, www.gregorylnorris.blogspot.com.
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This is one of those stories that really comes together at the end. Touching. I enjoyed it.