Granny Hillard had a way with men. Just take last Friday for example.
We arrived at her apartment around five fifteen. That was thirty minutes after I encountered her sprawled like a road kill ostrich at the Safeway exit. Her produce was scattered around her like splayed billiard balls. Her bifocals huddled behind two tomatoes as if looking for a new perspective on the world. Her left Kroc was still propping open the automatic door behind her. The uummph was definitely gone from her step.
I’d never met Granny Hillard before that moment, but I couldn’t ignore an octogenarian in such a plight. I lost my focus on the girl of my dreams waiting for our first encounter at the Starbucks two doors away. It’s so hard to find the right relationship anyway.
The concrete was tough on the knees, but I plopped down and felt for her pulse. She seemed to spasm at my touch. I felt for her throat at which point she latched onto my wrist and threatened me with eternal damnation if I didn’t get my hands off of her.
Several others rolled her over, hoisted her gently to her feet and dusted her off. Someone else gathered her groceries. A final good Samaritan rescued her glasses from the tomatoes and tried to perch them back on her little pointed nose.
She immediately fixated her fiery eyes on me. And then, she transformed into a fairy princess. Her eyes softened and mellowed. Her smile returned. She pointed at the young woman holding her environmentally friendly grocery bag.
“Thank you dear. Won’t you please give that to this sweet young man and he’ll carry it home for me.”
What could I say?
It was only three blocks to the building where she directed me. She stopped frequently for rest and poured out her life history in those moments. She was hardly more than a broomstick draped in outdated thrift store garments. We pressed on.
A half-hour got longer. We stopped on the third floor and I followed her out of the elevator and down to the fourth door on the left.
She handed me her keys and I fumbled to try and find one that would fit. Of the thirteen keys, none of them did. “Try again,” she urged. I did. Still no success.
A neighbour came by. He looked like an ex-NFL lineman.
“Excuse me,” called my elderly friend. “Can you help us open this door? We can’t seem to get in.”
The six-foot-six, three hundred and fifty pounder, wasn’t successful either. Another neighbour with a yappy Chihuahua was called in to try. He couldn’t fit any key in the lock either. Soon five of us men stood helplessly outside her door. The dog barked on and on.
The phone began to ring inside the apartment. “It’s probably my pastor,” she said. “Letting me know if Cecil made it through the night. I hope I didn’t forget to turn the oven off for those cupcakes. Does anyone smell burning? I have to find a toilet quick.”
“Move aside!” said the lineman. He looked at me. “Do you want me to get you in?”
“Do what you can,” I said.
He shouldered the door hard and it caved. Our little scrum of testosterone waited anxiously as our rescued princess handed off her groceries to the Chihuahua owner and scooted inside.
There was no burning and whoever was on the phone didn’t leave a message. I checked the oven and there weren’t even any cupcakes.
Three minutes later she appeared adjusting her skirt and fingering her bi-focals back into place. “Funny thing,” she said. “Someone switched the toilet and changed all the furniture.”
That dreaded sensation pressed on my lungs like a vice. “What do you mean?” I asked.
The lineman grabbed my arm and stared me down. “What is your momma saying?” he growled.
“She isn’t my momma,” I said as my bicep seemed to collapse. “I only met her an hour ago.”
“Well whose apartment is this?” yelled the dog man over the yapping of his Chihuahua.
“It’s mine!” screamed a female voice behind me. “What are you doing in my apartment and what are you doing with my gramma?”
“O Rachel!” beamed my elderly friend. “How are you doing?”
“Gramma, don’t ask. My date stood me up. The renovations on this apartment finally finished yesterday and now my door is broken in.”
The old woman smiled. “Rachel, meet Richard. He’s such a nice young man.”
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