An essay by Victoria Farthingstone, as told to Maureen Bowden
Art by Luke Spooner
Grandma lived in the attic. I’d never seen her, but sometimes, as I lay in bed at night, I’d hear her singing. The most frequent inclusions in her repertoire were “There’s a Place For Us” from West Side Story and “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” from Annie Get Your Gun. She was a mid-range baritone.
Mother cooked Grandma’s meals and left them on a tray at the bottom of the attic staircase, collecting the dirty dishes from the same spot an hour later. She also left a clean nightgown, bathrobe, bed linen, and various toiletries every week, and picked up dirty laundry. Neither of us ever climbed the stairs.
When I reached my teens I became curious. “Mother, where does Grandma go to the bathroom?”
“She has en suite facilities.”
“Why doesn’t she come downstairs and live with us?”
“She prefers her own company. Don’t pry, Victoria. No good ever came of it.” I recognised a warning when I heard it, and bided my time.
When I was sixteen, Grandma indirectly instigated our closer acquaintance. During my school’s summer vacation, I was alone in the house while Mother was at work. An hour after lunch, I collected the dirty dishes from their usual pick-up point, and I found a handwritten note on the tray. “Get me a darning needle, scissors, and some extra-strong thread.” I delved into Mother’s sewing box and found a needle and scissors but no thread exceeding normal strength. We kept a jar of coins under the sink. I grabbed a handful, stuffed them into my purse, and trotted off to the Art and Needlecraft shop run by Tegwyn ap Griffith, known as Welsh Teg. He and Mother were close friends. I wasn’t sure how close.
“Alright, Vic, what’s occurrin’?” he said.
“I need some extra strong thread, Teg.”
“Tidy. What colour is you after?”
“Dunno. It’s for my grandma and she didn’t say.”
“Grandma in the attic? She’ll be wantin’ Caucasian flesh coloured, isn’t it?” He tapped the side of his nose, and winked. I winked back, hoping it was the expected response. After foraging through a battered cardboard box under the counter he produced a cotton reel. “I won’t lie to you, Vic,” he said. “It’s a crackin’ bit of thread we got here, as it ‘appens. Tell Grandma it’ll last for years, like.”
I emptied the assorted coins out of my purse. “How much?”
“No charge. Have it on the house, and you tells your mam I’ll see her tonight at Wetherspoons, same time as usual.”
“Thanks. I’ll give her the message.”
My curiosity stamped its foot, demanding satisfaction, so after leaving the sewing accoutrements at the bottom of the attic staircase, I called, “Here’s the stuff you wanted, Grandma,” clomped down the landing loud enough for her to hear my retreating footsteps, hid behind Mother’s kangaroo vine in its bamboo pot, and waited.
The attic door creaked open. She descended the stairs. Her head was flat, her jaw was square, she had a bolt through her neck, and shoulders like Arnold Schwarzenegger. She was Frankenstein’s monster in a lilac nightdress.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2016 collection.
Victoria Farthingstone is a Biology student at Keale University. Her innovative thinking and unorthodox approach to dissection have led her tutor to express the opinion that she has a future in the development of progressive reconstructive surgery.
Maureen Bowden is a Liverpudlian, living, with her musician husband, in North Wales, where they try in vain to escape the onslaught of their children and grandchildren. She has had fifty-one poems and short stories accepted for publication and she writes songs, mostly political satire, that her husband has performed in folk clubs throughout England and Wales. One of her stories was nominated by Silver Pen publishing for the 2015 Pushcart prize. She loves her family and friends, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Shakespeare, and cats.
Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at www.carrionhouse.com.
“Promethea” is © 2015 Maureen Bowden
Art accompanying story is © 2016 Luke Spooner