Every day I walk home from school the same way. I step off the bus and cross the road. As I reach the crack in the path I duck my head under the cherry tree branch, I squeeze between the hedge and the brick wall, and then I’m home.
Today there was a jagged rock on the path so I started kicking it along. Because it was all sharp and pointy it was bouncing all over the place. So, I was chasing it under bushes and up people’s front lawns and I missed the crack in the path where I usually cross the road, and I missed the cherry tree that I usually duck under and I ended up on the front lawn of this house that I swear I’ve never seen before.
It’s older than most of the places on the street. It looks like it might have been the first house that was built here. It’s got these wrought iron embellishments all over the verandah and I reckon if it were a person it’d be an old lady wearing a veil. And she’d have really long, creepy fingernails. Yep, that’s what this house was like.
Sure enough, out of the front door stepped this old lady wearing a veil and sporting long fingernails. “That’s it!” She shouts. I thought she was going to cast a spell on me or something, but she’s like “come here young man.” She stuck out one of her nasty fingernails and curled it round like a tortured worm, gesturing me to come near. How could I say no to that? I picked up the rock and put it it my pocket like a dope. I didn’t want to leave it in her garden or she might think I was littering and cast a more severe spell on me.
As I walked closer it was like my feet were taking me to her. I was too shy to say no. Too polite to turn around and walk away without saying anything. Every fibre of me wanted to go the other way, but I figured it’s not like I murdered her cat or anything. What’s she going to do? Grumble at me for kicking rocks?
She called me by name. “Hurry up. What’s the matter? The tea will get cold.”
I definitely wasn’t expecting that! “Plonk your donk.” She gestured towards one of the two rocking chairs on the verandah as she slipped through the fly-screen door. As soon as she was gone she was back with a prepared tea tray with biscuits, a teapot, a cup with a saucer and one without. “I know young folks don’t like saucers, so the mug is yours.”
With one hand, she cleared a little concrete table of pot plants so that she’d be able to set down the heavy load. I was dopey, I didn’t really help. I was so confused. She filled my mug and I held it with my fingertips. It was hot. “Thank you.” I said in my most polite, well-behaved-young-man kind of tone.
She sat looking at her beautiful garden. I sat looking at her. We sat in silence.
“Oh!” She jumped to attention. She must have just realised that I was totally confused. “You’re my grandson. Sorry, I should have said.” “I’m sorry ma’am but I think you’ve got me confused with someone. My dad’s mum lives on the other side of town and my mum’s mum died before I was born.” The lady got all teary eyed, but she was collected about it.
“Perhaps you’re right my dear. I’m sorry. Enjoy your tea though. You’re a lovely young man in any case.”
We talked heaps, so I’ve definitely made a new friend. I’m seeing her tomorrow after school, but this time she’ll make me hot chocolate she said. There’s one thing I can’t figure out though. Mum never did talk much about my grandma, and how’d the old lady know my name?