Nobody hired in the middle of winter. Why couldn’t his family understand that? He retrieved the key from the fake rock amid the shrubs and let himself inside the house.
Moving quietly in order not to awaken her, he surveyed the living room. What would be of sentimental attachment? He’d start with the things she’d never miss. Old people, even sweet grandmas, collected stuff they never used.
The small electronic items, some still in boxes, went in one pile. A piece of wrapping paper with a friendly snowman face clung to an unopened MP3 player box. He’d made a good start on the project when he heard the shuffling of bedroom slippers.
“Look who’s here!” The stooped lady in the chenille robe gave him a big smile. “Eugene! I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow. Have you been to see your folks, or did you come straight to your grandma’s?” She held out her arms.
“I—I came here, Grandma. You look good.”
“Well, looks aren’t everything.” She patted his chest with both hands.
“How about a big breakfast? With these cataracts, I can’t see much, but I know my way around the kitchen.”
“How bad are your eyes?”
“Real bad, everything is fuzzy. Doctors say they can fix them, but I don’t want anybody cutting on the eyes I was born with. Neighbors check on me, and I can cook. Eugene, get out the bacon, eggs, milk, and juice, and I’ll start on the biscuits. You can cut the biscuits out with a drinking glass like you did when you were a kid. Remember?” She grabbed a tumbler from the cabinet. “Dip the rim in the flour and use it like a cookie cutter.”
“Sounds like fun, Grandma.”
The aroma of brewing coffee, frying bacon, and baking biscuits made his stomach rumble. His usual breakfasts consisted of strong caffeine and cigarettes, so a home-cooked breakfast would be a treat. He poured the steaming liquid into mugs, one with Stonehenge’s faded image and the other showing the country’s flag.
She handed him a bowl. “Would you mind scrambling the eggs? Oh, the timer’s set for the biscuits. Butter them when you take them out. I need to get my partial plate, so I can eat.”
While whisking the eggs, he heard her moving things around, singing, and talking to herself. He’d dished up the eggs and nibbled on a biscuit while waiting for her return. The nibbling became big bites. Delicious. Should he help her look for her false teeth?
Then he heard the toilet flush, and she padded into the kitchen.
He pulled out her chair, noticing how tiny and fragile she seemed. “I couldn’t wait, Grandma. I ate two biscuits with that homemade peach jam.”
She patted his cheek. “Can’t believe you’re here. I’m going to say grace, with a special petition for your future.”
He wolfed down six slices of bacon and more than his share of the scrambled eggs. “More coffee, Grandma?” He topped off both mugs, adding extra cream to his.
When the front doorbell sounded, he stood.
She motioned for him to sit. “Stay put, Eugene. That’ll be my neighbor. She checks on me each day, has to make sure I didn’t die during the night.”
The last biscuit looked so lonely on the plate that he loaded it with sugary yellow jam and stuffed it all in his mouth.
“Look who’s here.” She gestured to a tall policeman.
The young man coughed, as the biscuit caught in his throat.
“Gentleman Jim, we’ve been trying to catch you for the past six months.” The policeman indicated the breakfast-eater stand and face the kitchen counter. “Better search you for weapons, even though that’s never been your style.”
“But Grandma, it’s me, Eugene.” He waited for the sweet-faced woman to intercede.
“Young man, I made that name up. I saw your picture on the local broadcast last night and recognized you as soon as I laid eyes on you.”
“Grandma, you know your eyes aren’t what they used to be. It’s me, your grandson.”
“Truth is, I don’t have any grandsons, only granddaughters.