The Biscuit Tin
She says that they are all coming back. But then, of course she does. If I was going for a prank like this, I’d go for broke with the scale, too – even though that’s ultimately what makes the thing so implausible.
I mean, all the world’s dead, walking the earth? It presupposes a belief in the Bible, doesn’t it? I mean, that and zombies.
And besides, if all the world is suddenly exhumed, animated and visiting their survivors, how do you explain her being here, whole and upright? She was cremated…
She won’t answer any direct questions about that or anything else, and she seems kinda pissed, somehow. But then, she always did, so whoever is pulling this has done their homework.
“Cup of tea, gran?” I ask, forcing a smirk onto my face, although at best I feel a little angry, and at worst a little creeped out.
Because she looks exactly like her. Even talks a little like her, though there’s a gravelly quality to the voice, which makes me wonder if there isn’t a bloke under what is obviously a top-notch make-up job… Maybe the disguise wouldn’t stand up to the harsh light of day.The bulb here in the kitchen is a dull one, after all.
She stands there, not answering, cocking her head to one side in a way that my real gran never did. There’s something coldly amused about it, and about her new expression.
Her thin white hair catches the slight light like a halo. There’s a haze around her, almost like steam coming off someone who has run a very long way, or spent a few hours in a hot nightclub. Or like the dust coming off everyone you saw on telly on 911.
It’s a bit weird, but I shake it off. I’m being daft.
I open a cupboard, and reach in for the teabags, and two mugs. Then I bend down to pick out the special biscuit tin; the one under the sink.
Over the low rumble and rattle of the kettle, I hear a commotion in the street outside. The clubs must have started kicking out already – it’s always the same. On cue, the distant sirens start.
I get back up, and she has moved a little closer, standing around the side of the breakfast bar.
“Want a biscuit, gran?” I say, showing her the tin.
“That isn’t very respectful, now, is it?” She says, all gravel. She is talking about the browning paper label on the tin, the tape holding it in place brittle with time. The one that says “granny”.
“I don’t know what you mean…” I say, smug, placing it on the breakfast bar, removing the lid. The tin is, of course, completely empty. Shocked, I glance over at her, back at the empty tin, not a speck of dust in there.
“I mean, that isn’t a very respectful way to store the remains of a loved one. Is it?” She says. “Now do you believe me?”
I turn and look down slightly into her old face, and can’t help but nod.
And then she purses her lips, and now she is so close that I can see flickers of dust in the well-remembered, hated moustache. “Haven’t you got a kiss for granny?”
So I close my eyes, and turn my cheek, and succumb to her outstretched arms, her dusty embrace. Because really, when it’s your gran, what else can you do?
This is a repost of a piece that was originally posted back in July 2008. It was originally presented here, and you can see other writing from the same week here. We’ll be sharing Elephant Memories with you for the next few weeks, while we break for Christmas.
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