Gran swats at the fat black blob that buzzes within the reach of her rolled-up newspaper. The jabbing motion of her hand’s reflection in the window pane smashes down on the roofs of sleeping bungalows, dog walkers, and and a lone streetlight.
“Over there,” Jeffrey, her grandson says thrusting his finger at the ricochetting bug.
Jeffrey wants to help her kill it but knows that two people flailing their arms in an enclosed space can only lead to disaster.
She punctuates the buzzing with a whack on the side of the fridge that sends a souvenir magnet from Morecombe to the floor with a clatter.
“There,” she says and sighs and drops the soiled weapon into the paper recycling bin. He retrieves the magnet and puts it back among the others. Her teeth ill-fit her lips like dominoes when she smiles at him a wordless thanks.
“You need to get food down you,” she says. “You´re a growing boy.”
The apple she plucks from the fruit table spins like a little yellow wrinkled planet when she tosses it to him. This is the apple he will take twenty minutes to eat though he normally wolfs down his food. Whenever he comes to visit his gran, Jeffrey always gets an apple or an orange. He used to think she purposefully chose the one in the sorriest state but now he knows the fruit bowl is full of such specimens. Gran is to fruit what the parish beadle, Mr Bumble, is to workhouses.
The visits have a rhythm. Gran always speaks of the young girl from Home Help who takes the wheelie bin to the front of the house ready for the collection. When his mum complained about the state of his room and told him that his gran kept her house spick and his span no matter her health he decided to check for himself on his next visit. There was not a mark anywhere, not a speck of dust on all the Senoritas clutching fans, the miniature clogs, and the souvenir jugs. Even now with her arthritic hip the place is still spotless. Jeffrey wonders why she doesn´t throw the tat away and forget the dusting as she leads him to his place in front of the TV and fetches the Toby Jug. He would never think of telling her this.
His grandma puts her loose change in a toby jug for the charity lady and gets him to count it. Mum says it’s because her sight is going. Jeffrey likes to put the coins in piles of 5s, 10s, 50ps and 20ps. The coppers always go further on the carpet than the silver, and smell heavier than the pockets they weighed down.
Before he goes she normally gives him a present. Like today, his mum has told him he will recieve a brown chunky knit jumper although he doesn´t know when he will wear it because they are in the middle of a heatwave and it doesn´t go with the stuff he wears. He saw the brown paper parcel in the hall when he came in, and since then he´s been trying to perfect his sincerest smile. Visits to gran, Jeffrey thinks, are like an endurance test of gratitude.
Gran smells of mothballs because she is of the generation that had to re-use their clothing until it fell apart. When he opens the brown paper parcel on the bus back home he finds the little white balls and though they smell acrid and milky they make him smile.