Molly and the Geezer
and the Death of Grandma Claire
A joyful look at the highest of human values: greed, double-crossing, poor parenting, love, spite, and come-uppance!!
Copyright 2012 Michael Spooner
All rights reserved. Feel free to share a link to these pages,
but do not copy the text, print, or re-post it on any other
site, personal or public.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters herein
to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental.
They can hear the water running upstairs, and then Joanne remembers why she came.
“Rhinehart, honey,” she says. “How’s our patient today?”
Rhinehart has his hands clasped around one knee. He jiggles his foot slightly. “Better ask Paulie,” he offers. “I just got here, myself.”
Paul coughs on a bite of toast. “Oh, um, you know what, Joanne?” he stammers. “Mother had a good night. A real good night.”
“I’m so glad,” Joanne says. “Isn’t that fine?” There is an awkward pause while Uncle Paul fidgets.
Georgia, star of the Laketown stage, steps in to pick up the dropped cue. “Yes, in fact, Molly’s up there right now helping her with a bath.”
“More coffee, Joanne?” asks Grace.
Joanne holds up her hand. “I can’t, really. I’ll just go up and take her vitals. Make her comfortable. You know.”
“No!” says Paul. He lurches to his feet and whacks the table with his knee. “Ouch! I mean, there’s no need, Joanne.” Upstairs, the water has turned off. “We can keep her comfortable.”
“Well, I’ll just check on her then,” says Joanne, rising from her chair.
Sonia is smiling far too brightly. “Really, Joanne,” she says. “There are plenty of us, and Mother’s not going anywhere.”
“You’re so busy,” says Paul. “I just don’t know how you manage.”
Joanne smiles firmly. “At times like this, I always say, to have your loved ones around you is the most comforting thing of all. But I really need to check on her or I can’t put it down in my log how she’s doing.”
There’s a moment of deep coughing at the top of the stairs, and everyone freezes. Then Grandma Claire’s voice drifts down from above.
“Joanne dear, is that you?”
Paul’s face goes the color of yogurt, and Georgia sets down the coffee pot a little too suddenly. Sonia is still as a snake, her eyes wide. Only Rhinehart seems undisturbed, his knee bouncing softly under his hands.
“Good morning, honey,” calls Joanne. “Looks like you got your hands full down here.”
There’s a soft chuckle upstairs. “You can only imagine. . . . Listen, dear. I’m feeling more energy today. I know you’re busy, and with the kids here, I’ve got all the help I can stand.”
“Shall I just come up and take your vitals?”
“You know what, honey? Molly’s just done that. You can write down the same as yesterday.”
“Well, all right then,” Joanne says. “And you’ll take your meds?”
“I sure will. Molly has them all counted out for me.”
“Do you need your suppository?”
“Oh, I don’t think so. I’ve had a nice BM, and Molly’s given me a sponge bath. I’m feeling quite pampered.”
“Well,” says Joanne. “I shouldn’t oughta, but if you think you’ll be all right, then I’ll get on down to Lucille’s place. They called me driving over here.”
“I’ll be fine, dear. See you tomorrow.”
Upstairs, a door closes.
Awkward silence in the kitchen, until Rhinehart speaks up. “Haven’t heard her sound that good in a long time,” he observes.
"Yes, well, um” says Paul hoarsely. “See what I mean, Joanne?” The aunts and uncles are all eyebrows and innocence.
“She sounds fine today,” agrees Joanne. “But don’t let her do too much, okay?”
“Oh, we won’t,” Sonia puts in. “She’ll get loads of rest.”
Joanne smiles nursily and wrinkles her forehead into a comforting expression. She looks around the group in the kitchen. “Now, I know how much youse all care about your ma, but I don’t want you to be surprised if this energy she’s feeling today don’t last.” She smiles again and then she makes her voice very kind, “you know, we usually feel a little stronger just before the end. . . .”
Georgia’s face begins to tremble, and then it begins to cave in. She sobs into her hand and turns away quickly. “I’m sorry,” she says to Joanne. “I told myself I wouldn’t cry.”
“Aw, honey,” says Joanne. “Don’t you worry one minute about that.”
Uncle Hal, who has been grimly clamped onto his cigar, speaks in quiet wonder. “That Molly is some kind of girl, isn’t she?”
Joanne lifts her hand. “I swear I don’t know what Claire woulda done all these years without Molly. And Rhinehart of course.”
“Still,” sniffs Grace, icily. “What a pity that St. Ignatius never found a proper home for the child. She should be among her own kind.”
“Shoot, I never thought Claire would give her up, anyway,” says Joanne. “Did you, Rhinehart?”
“Never entered her mind,” said Rhinehart flatly.
Sonia stands. “Well, I guess we better not keep you, Joanne.”
“That’s right,” Paul agrees quickly. “Lucille is going to be looking for you.” He takes Joanne’s elbow and guides her toward the door.
“I guess that’s so,” says Joanne. She pats his shoulder. “Youse will be all right?”
Georgia calls out from the kitchen. “Wait! Do we have your number in case we need you?” Her lashes glisten beautifully with tears.
“Molly has my number,” says Joanne. “You just call whenever you like, honey.”
Paul helps Joanne through the door while the others call out their goodbyes and their drive-carefullys.
Joanne’s car is pulling out of the driveway as Molly bounds down the stairs.