Stuck That Way, Part 2

Painting by Van Gogh

(Continued from Stuck That Way, Part 1.)

“Alice, Alice, wake up.”  I am jolted from my dream by Mama’s voice.

“Mmmph…  Mama?”  As the sleeps clears from my eyes, I see that Mama's is dressed and has her heavy brown wool coat on. She's crying.  “What’s the matter? Why are you dressed?”  I feel tears coming to my eyes too.

“Sssh, sssh, it’s okay, Alice. But Grandma is sick and an ambulance took her to the hospital.  Daddy and I are going down there now.  I just wanted you to know that Mrs. Franklin from down the street came over, so you and Billy won’t be home alone.  I’ve already told him.  Now go back to sleep.  I’ll see you in the morning.”

She leans down, kisses my cheek and gives me a quick hug.  Than, she turns and leaves the room.  Fully awake now, I listen to her footsteps go down the stairs.  There is murmuring in the front hall, and then the front door closes.  After a minute or two, I jump from my bed and go to the window. I pull the curtain back just in time to see the taillights of our old car disappearing into the snowy night.

When I can’t see them any more, a lump rises in my throat, and I feel like I’m going to cry.  I wish I could say it was out of sadness for Grandma.  But that would be a lie.  To be honest, I’m not sure why I feel like crying.  But I’m kinda scared.   I get back in my bed, and hug my pillow. 

I try to go back to sleep, but I can’t.  I get out of bed and tiptoe down the hall, carefuly avoiding the creaky boards I know are waiting there to give me away.  I slip into Billy’s room,  being as quiet as I can so Mrs. Franklin won’t hear me and come upstairs. Mrs. Franklin is nice enough but she’s as old as Grandma.  If I don’t understand why I am upset, how can I expect her to understand?

I whisper right into the ear I can just see above the patchwork quilt he’s got pulled up nearly over his whole head. “Billy?” 

When he doesn’t answer, I poke him a good one in the shoulder, and try again.  “Billy. Are you awake?”

“I am now, Brat,” he answers.  “What do you want?  Hey, are you crying?  What the heck?  Is this about Grandma?  Ma said she was gonna be fine, which is too bad in my book.  I wish the old battle-ax would just kick the bucket.”

Billy.” Even though I sort of wished the same thing myself, I am shocked to hear Billy say it out loud.

“I’m scared,” I whisper.  “Can I get in bed with you?”  If Mama and Daddy were home, I’d be climbing into bed with them.  But Billy is better than nothing, plus he has a double bed.  There’s plenty of room for both of us in there. 

“Oh, criminy.”  I can’t see his eyes in the dark, but I know he’s rolling them.  Ever since he became a teenager, that seems to be his favorite expression.  He’d better be careful. What if his eyes get stuck that way and roll around for the rest of his life?

With a huge, dramatic sigh, Billy holds up the covers and says, “OK, but stop being such a baby and go to sleep.  And stay on your own side, for Pete's sake.  I’ve got football practice tomorrow, and I need to sleep.  Besides, there’s nothing to be scared about.  If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll get some good news tomorrow.”

I jump into bed with him, and pretty soon, I’m falling asleep.  As I drift off, in my most secret heart, I’m hoping he’s right.


The next morning, Billy's alarm clock jars me awake with its clanging.  "Wake up, Alice," he says, as if I could still be asleep after that racket.  "I think Ma's probably still sleeping after being out so late.  Be real quiet."

We take  turns using the bathroom like we always do, and head downstairs downstairs when we're dressed for school.  When Billy and I walk into the kitchen, we're surprised to find Mrs. Franklin is still here, bustling around the kitchen in one of Mama’s aprons.  Her dress looks like she slept in it -- well, I guess she did -- and  her wiry gray hair is sticking out every which-a-way.  Like Daddy sometimes says about me, she looks like something the cat dragged in, which is not like her at all.  Still, she tries to act normal.

“Good morning, children,” she chirps.  “Your parents are still at the hospital, so I get to make you my favorite breakfast.  Let's hurry now. You don't want to miss the school bus.”

With a flourish, she puts a platter of pancakes and bacon down on the red-checked oilcloth covering the kitchen table.  A pitcher of syrup already waits there, along with two glasses of milk.  Billy and I give each other a look.  Pancakes.  On a Wednesday. We hardly ever have pancakes, not even on weekends.  

Billy and I are just finishing eating when we hear Mama at the front door.  She stops long enough to hang her coat on one of the coat hooks in the hall and exchange snowy boots for her worn house slippers.   Then she comes out to the kitchen, looking even worse than Mrs. Franklin.

“Mama, you look…” Billy pauses in mid-sentence when he realizes what he was about to say. “…tired.  Where’s Daddy?  How’s Grandma?”

“Not too well, I’m afraid.  She’s pretty sick.  I guess she is going to be in the hospital for a while.  Daddy is still there with her.”

She turns to Mrs. Franklin.  "Thank you for coming over, Mrs. Franklin.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate it," Mama says as she takes the apron Mrs. Franklin is holding out to her and ties it around her waist.

"Oh, there now, Dear, I was happy to help.  I do hope Mr. Lawson's mother will be alright.  Now I'll just be heading home.  If you need me again, please just call."

She says goodbye to Billy and me, and she and Mama walk down the hall to the front door.  As I clear our dishes from the table and put them in the sink, I catch a glimpse of Mrs. Franklin tying a scarf around her head and pulling on gloves. After closing the door behind her, Mama returns to the kitchen, saying, "Coffee. That's just what I need."

She fills the percolator with water.  As she spoons the coffee into its metal basket, Mama tells us about Grandma.

"It has something to do with her sugar," she explains.

She tells us a bunch of stuff the doctor said.  I don’t understand a word she says.  But when Mama’s back is turned, I see a small smile on Bill’s face.

I guess neither one of us is broken up about Grandma being in the hospital.  She is just plain mean, and we don’t like her much.  I think Billy even hates her.  I know that he really gets mad at the way she treats us, especially Mama.

I wish we had a grandmother like Susan’s.  Her Grandma always brings cookies when she visits Susan.  And she even looks like a grandmother should look, all round with rosy cheeks and twinkling eyes.  She’s always ready to hand out hugs along with the cookies, chuckling in that way she has. I don’t think I’ve ever heard our Grandma laugh.

I have to admit, it’ll be pretty nice not having her around nagging and scolding us all the time.  Plus, we get to watch our shows on television.

(Continued in Stuck That Way, Part 3)

This was written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory, where the prompt is :Shooting the Breeze."


  1. nice...i am really enjoying this patti...you are weaving quite the tale...looking forward to pt 3...

  2. Wonderfully written, Patti. Your characters are so richly drawn - even Grandma. There is nothing or no one more hurtful and disappointing than a mean Grandma.

  3. I'm involved in this family now and await their story unfolding. "Criminy" was my favorite aunt's favorite word. Brings back memories.


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