So, I was “summoned” to my grandmother’s house for the weekend. Summoned. That’s sort of how things work in my family. You don’t visit, you don’t drop by; you’re summoned. My grandmother is a schizophrenic and, quite literally, a rainbow short of a 48 crayon box. I grew up looking for angel’s spot-lights on the wall because of this woman.
I was summoned to this woman’s house to clean her kitchen because, not only could she not take care of herself, she also couldn’t take care of her kitchen. Someone had to clean the burst fruit jar remnants off the ceiling, someone had to mop the weird crud off of the floor, and someone had to clean the molded detritus out of the refrigerator. Being the 2nd oldest, capable adult, out of all the grandkids, I was summoned. Probably had a lot to do with the fact that I was the oldest, capable female but we’ll just leave that dog where it lies.
I went on Friday and did the rote “How are you” and “How have you been holding up”. I asked about the food, the weather, the mangy dog she refused to bring inside or care for but wouldn’t give to a good home. Miniature poodle, gunk so thick I’m surprised that it could see, bone-thin and vicious as a coyote. Looking back: I’m sure it was hungry but I didn’t think that, then.
One thing that I noticed, while I was there… I never felt completely alone. This was the same house that my great-grandmother had inhabited so I was somewhat familiar with it’s layout. I knew which corners we’d have to place our noses in, which rooms held the belts for the beatings (garage not withstanding), which part of the carpet we’d have our faces shoved into for not knowing what “sit on the davenport” meant. I knew the closet you’d get locked in if you didn’t follow the rules that were randomly created in great-grandma’s mind. I can still feel my scalp burning from when she pulled me off of my bike by my hair for playing with the girl down the street. I guess I should have known that you can never be completely alone in great-grandma’s house.
Great grandma didn’t die there but she sure left some memories. It was hard to go there; when she was alive and after. There was always this eerie feeling of being watched. Especially in the backyard and near the shed. I don’t recall the neighbors but I know that the one on the right made things particularly eerie when playing in the back yard. We’d be playing tag or ring-around-the-rosie and we’d get this weird feeling from the right side fence.
Great grandma had that shed locked up tight with an industrial looking padlock so there was no way we would go snooping in there. Everytime we’d get near it, a shadow would seem to fall on us from that side of the fence. We’d glance over, in our innocence, and see nothing but a looming shadow and hear the breathing that only our heaviest of step-dads could achieve. After a few times of that, we gave up going near that shed. We didn’t like the noises that came out of it. The neighbor never, ever spoke to us and we never saw him when playing in the street. Not in person. Not on his front porch. Not checking the mail. The man never came outside but we knew he was there.
Back to the here and now. I’ve been tasked with cleaning up this “home of heritage”. We’re native to the US so we take care of our own. If anyone is going to raise someone that is born into our tribe, we raise them. If someone in the tribe needs help, we help them. If someone loses their shit and needs their house cleaned on a regular basis to ensure that the “white man” doesn’t wreak havoc, someone is summoned. Here I am; and there I was, prepped for cleaning.
I kept wiping, scrubbing, spraying, wiping, scrubbing, spraying. All the while, hearing whimpers from that damned poodle hellion. I kept telling myself to ignore the dog and keep going. Eventually I would be done and Grandma’s home would be clean. Great grandma would be proud. The home would be livable and everyone could rest easy in knowing that a family member just took care of it.
Living room carpet is vacuumed and shampooed, ceramic, collectible pigs have been dusted (why they’re still here, I don’t know), candy dish has been refilled with that god-awful swirl candy shit that every old person just keeps on display for, perhaps, artistic reasons. And the sound is still there. The sound of that stupid, damn dog. The dog with it’s ribs showing, the pinkish-yellow crusts in the corners of it’s eyes, the yap that makes you grind your teeth. That stupid dog.
Well, I went out to get that dog and let it in. Only, I didn’t find the dog. I found that locked-up-tight shed wide open. I found that stupid dog, fleshed out in the entrance. There was nothing left but the fur and skin at the entrance. I’m not supposed to get picked up for another hour and grandma doesn’t have a phone. Too many emergency calls in the middle of the night got that “privilege” revoked since she can’t seem to keep her straight from the narrow.
I came back in to check on grandma but the only thing I’ve found in her bedroom is a bloody bathrobe. Her slippers aren’t here so I’m assuming she put them on. She was wearing some plain sweat pants and a comfy, oversize shirt. She keeps the bathrobe draped over the end of her bed for her showers. The bathroom door is closed and I think I hear some sounds coming from the hall where it’s located.
I’m too scared to hesitantly creep into the hallway. I’m actually terrified and legitimately thinking of jumping out of the bedroom window. …But the noises. They’re not normal. It sounds like someone is loudly chewing raw spaghetti noodles whilst dousing their mouth with marinara sauce.
I need to make sure that my grandma is okay because… Well, that would be expected of me but… well, I’m afraid.
It’s kind of quiet now.
I think I’ll try and sneak out of this room. I have to pass the bathroom, the guest room, the kitchen, and make it through the living room to get out the front door but it’s worth a shot.
I’ve opened the door a crack and I can see some liquid. Some pool of something creeping out from the open bathroom door. The house is silent. I’m going to try. I’m going to try to go as quietly as I can. Maybe on all fours. Yes. I think that’s the best. Just crawl on all fours and see if I can make it out.
Hmm…. This liquid from the bathroom seems kind of sticky. Sticky and dark. Umm.. I think there’s someone looking at me from the other side of the living room.