She’s sitting in her armchair, the blue cattle-dog slumped solidly against her calves, watching the golf on TV. Those great white-blue sky-arcs that almost never find the ball. “There was nothing else to do in Wentworth Falls,” she has told me before. “That’s how I met your grandfather.”
Balanced on her knees is a plate of salad. She wears a tweed skirt and beige stockings and solidly good brown shoes. Her blouse and lipstick are neat and go well with her skirt. She looks at me kindly.
“You must be tired, dear – standing all day in the book shop.” I don’t correct her. I just smile and try to ask her about her childhood. She looks tired too, and fiddles absently with her hearing aid that whistles softly like a kettle just warming up. She tells me about a trip to New Caledonia when she was quite young. I picture her on the train beside her mother, her mother in a dress with voluminous skirts and discomfort of that on a semi-tropical island. I imagine the noise of the steam train as they plough along and the open windows letting in both a little breeze and the occasional passing ember. Gran always laughs at this bit. “My mother was saying ‘Oh it’s so hot! So very hot!'” She presses fingers to her lips as she chortles. “An ember had landed in her skirt. Her dress was burning! Oh dear. We had to put it out.”
Unusually, Gran’s French Roll has come slightly adrift tonight and some strands of hair hang down over her ear. Her fingers tug them for a moment and then give up and return to her fork. She stabs the last leaf of lettuce and crunches down on it.
“I feel so virtuous!” she chuckles. “All that lettuce!” A train rumbles by and the dog snuffles and farts. Gran cooks special meat dishes for the dog every night although she, herself, is vegetarian.
Tomorrow morning is Saturday and I’ll be bound to find her out on the deck, black coffee in hand, and sun to her face, while the parakeets screech and flap. And then, later, after we’ve trailed some seeds along the railing for the birds, we might walk the dog together. “She’s so slow!” Gran will complain laughingly, rubbing her aching back against a light pole.