practicing grandmother

My sister sends me a t-shirt years ago.

It says, “I don’t know if I am the good witch or the bad witch.”

I burst into tears and put it in the trunk of my car. I never wear it. I am the designated bad witch for half my family. We won’t go into that.

She gets a shirt too. Hers is the green one. Mine is black.

She is dead, in 2012, breast cancer. It’s hard to describe the fallout. Toxic and radioactive. But… I have decided not to be a witch.

Instead, I am a practicing grandmother.

Really I’ve been one for a while. There was a young couple who lived down the street with two children. This was in 2014. I am a Facebutt friend, so sometimes noted what was happening. The father has to travel for his job. The mother is trying to care for two kids and work and so on… been there.

In 2014 I am recovering from my third round of pneumonia. This third round it takes six months before I can return to work. Short of breath and coughed if I talked. The state medical watch doctors want to disable me but I fight them tooth and nail. I win. In retroscope, oops, I mean retrospect, they were probably right.

Anyhow, I wander down to the neighbor and offer my services. She already knows me. She is instantly grateful and two year old T is introduced to me, again. He doesn’t really remember me. She explains that he is coming to my house for a little while and then back home.

T and I walk towards my house.

A nuthatch calls.

I stop and reply. In college I took ornithology and the teaching assistant could do a barn owl call so well that the barn owls would do a territorial fly over at night to see who had the weird accent. Marvelous.

The nuthatch and I went “enh” back and forth. T is amazed. This woman talks to birds. Then we see the nuthatch! I point out how nuthatches come down a tree head first. “If you hear that call, it’s a nuthatch. Look for it.” The nuthatch is very cooperative. Magic.

We get to my house. T is clutching a book. “He’s taking it everywhere,” sighs his mother. “I’m not sure why.”

So first we read the book. It is a board book about a farm. Each page has a central picture and then there are pictures around the edges with the word under each picture. On one page T says, “Haaaaay.”

“Oh!” I say, delighted. “You can read HAY!”

His face lights up. An adult who gets it! Yes! He can read HAY!

On another page he says HAY. “Oh,” I say, “That is straw. Straw is a lot like hay but it’s not exactly the same.”

He is very serious absorbing that information.

I show him my closet. There is a stick horse. Only it isn’t a horse: it’s a unicorn dragon, with a forehead horn and wings. When you press a button it’s eyes flash and it roars.

Ok, that’s pretty scary. He wants the closet door closed and he does NOT want to play with the dragon.

Next is pouring. I get out a towel and put it on the kitchen floor. I get out a rather nice expresso set. Bright colors. Orange and green and yellow and blue. I fill the coffee pot with water and invite him to sit on the towel. “You can pour the tea.”

He looks at me with surprise. He picks up the coffee pot. He looks at me again. “Go ahead. It’s ok.” He starts pouring into a cup. He pours until the cup overflows and the saucer overflows and he keeps pouring. The coffee pot is empty. He looks at me a little warily. This is technically spilling and he knows it.

“Would you like more in the teapot?”

He nods.

I refill the coffee pot with water and he starts again, with a different cup.

When I return him to mom, after two hours, he’s damp. “Sorry, he got a little wet, but it’s just water,” I say cheerfully. Mom is too harried to do much more than look resigned at a change of clothes. I tell her about him being able to read the word hay.

Next time he comes with a change of clothes and his large stroller, in case he goes down for a nap.

And first off, he goes to the closet. Time to hear that dragon roar again.

Bad Pig

This is Bad Pig. She is helping with the computer.

Bad Pig was born, or made, in 1982 or 1983. I made her in college. She is constructed of a coat hanger, a cardboard tube and some stuffing and then I found fabric to cover her. I used post earrings for eyes, because that is what I had on hand. They are rather nice earrings. Her tail curls around so that she can sit on your shoulder like Anne McCaffrey’s fire lizards. I made her for a convention of some sort. Fantasy, I think.

Anyhow, I gave Bad Pig to my sister Chris. She was not named Bad Pig at that time. I don’t know what Chris named her. But she continued with Chris through multiple moves. When my sister was in hospice, I asked if I could take Bad Pig back home with me. Chris said yes. Later Chris asked me to keep the bad pigs from harming anyone else. I was not exactly sure what she meant, but I said yes.

On the way home, I named the dragon Bad Pig and explained that I didn’t want her to harm anyone. Let the past be the past and bygones be bygones. I am not sure exactly what the details of Bad Pigdom were, but it’s the future I am concerned with.

Bad Pig has been in the living room on the book shelf since coming back to Washington. Currently she is helping out with the computer. I tell her when the computer is considering being unhelpful and Bad Pig then considers breathing fire on it. However, the computer straightens up at that point, so she doesn’t have to.

My sister was born in the Chinese year of the dragon. In hospice she said, “How will I find you?”

I said, “You are a dragon. You are letting me take the dragon I made you home. You will be able to fly. All you have to do is find the dragon and you will find me.”

So it is very comforting to have her so close.

the mystic E2 dragon

We are writing a quest where we ask different people to write more about a topic. The requests are anonymous and some are for existing titles that have no write ups. This topic was given to another person and then I was asked to write about it as well. My sister was an editor on the everything2 website. She was born in the year of the dragon. She died of cancer in 2012.

_____________________

the mystic E2 dragon

 

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

“They want me to write about the mystic E2 dragon.”

Laughs.

“So I think of you.”

Silence… a weight. “So it’s me?”

“No, but you are a dragon, born in the Year of the Dragon.”

“Like we’re Chinese.”

“Yeah, well.”

“And you are an ox.”

“Thanks.” I wait. “Come on, show up.”

The dragon is made of a coat hanger, a rough gold cloth and black felt hand sewn to the body, thin gold cloth on the wings, gold earrings with rubies for eyes. Probably fake rubies, I’m not sure. I made it in college, tail to curl around the neck so that it can sit upright on my shoulder when I walk around. A gold fire lizard. I gave it to my sister, who said I could take it back when she lay dying.

The dragon morphs and now fills the living room, pushing on the walls and squashing me. The scales are hard and hot!

“Stop it!” I say, “Don’t destroy the house!”

The dragon is now couch size. My couch groans under it. The dragon is very alive and smoke rises from her nostrils. It manages to look like my sister, like a dragon and like the borg all at once. Metal and wires on the left side of the dragon’s face, eye socket with a metal camera that whirrs.

“Mind the couch.” I say.

She shifts a little, not shrinking. I peel myself off the fireplace, with the ache of the metal insert and the mantel on my back.

“So.” I say, “what should I tell them?”

She narrows her eyes at me and shrugs.

“What do they want to hear?”

“You tell me.”

“Keep the site alive.”

“Yeah, ok.” I wait.

She looks around. “Your dust bunnies are dying of old age.”

“That’s ok.” I say. “They are better than a guard dog.”

She snorts smoke.

“Tea?” I say. I have it made already, on a tray. The tray was painted by one cousin, the tea cloth woven by another, the teapot made by our mother, with my poem on it.

She takes the cup and saucer delicately. Five claws on each forefoot.

“What’s it like?” I say.

Shrug again, as she sips the tea.

I wait.

“I’m not telling you. And this is your active imagination, so what a stupid question.”

“But I am talking to the unconscious.”

“Yeah, whatever. And anyhow, you’ve already decided, puny human.”

“Ox.”

“Ok.”

And here a curtains drops, while I thank her and we say goodbye.

 

Submitted to the Daily Prompt: candid.