Next weekend, I’m meeting for the first time with my new writing group, all professional women I met while working on my MA, and I decided to include an excerpt from the short story I’m sharing with my writing group here. The working title of the story is simply Grandma Jinnie, and the grandmother is loosely based on my own great great-grandmother, whom I met as an infant, although I don’t remember. At 100 years old, she died the year I turned one. The story developed from an assignment in a writing course, but I’m hoping to develop it more fully and hopefully publish the final version. That is one of my writing goals for 2015.
Entering the house, the staleness of the air and the scent of old lavender, mint, and rich earth brought the childhood memories into sharp focus. My brothers and I had learned to gather chicken eggs, to catch and kill chickens for dinner, to pluck the feathers, to gut the bird. We learned to fish along the river that runs less than a mile from this house, to clean fish, fry them, share a family dinner with biscuits, fish, mustard greens. Grandma Jinnie called from the kitchen as the wooden screen door squeaked open and slapped shut behind me.
“Well, ‘bout time you showed up. Ain’t no good to keep a woman my age a’waiting. Come in here, child, and git that kettle on the stove. You’ll be wanting some sassafras tea.”
Weaving through the cluttered memorabilia in the front room, I entered the kitchen to see my Grandma at the kitchen table holding a butcher knife and gutting a chicken.
“That durned boy next door came by this morning when little Missy left. He’s such a busybody you’d thaink he’s an old woman.”
Mr. Picket was fifty-five, I reminded her. She kept carving up the chicken, throwing the guts in one bowl and the meat into another. My Grandma sat in the hickory wheelchair, a quilt over her legs – stubbs now since her amputation. Her diabetes had gotten so bad they couldn’t do anything for her except amputate a half dozen years ago. Her mind seems spry, even if her body is not.
Since her amputation surgery, she had regained quite a bit of energy. The kitchen had been somewhat renovated for her. She insisted that the pots and pans hang on hooks on the wall so she could reach them. The only problem was that the last time she tried to cook for herself she had gotten her sleeve caught in the handle of the skillet, and the lard in the skillet caught her sleeve on fire. How she managed to extinguish the fire, we still couldn’t figure out, but she lay on the kitchen floor for almost eighteen hours before Missy came the next morning and found her. Missy had been such a help as Grandma’s home care nurse, and she was always cheerful – even when Grandma fussed and occasionally swore like a sailor.
“I don’t give a dad-blame if he’s fifty-five or ninety, I’m still older than that li’l jackass. He done went and killed this here chicken. Why that bastard have to go and be like that? I got no more chickens.”