by Andrea Graham © 2005
Annie and her little sister, Chrissie, sat on the floor as they watched Macys’ Thanksgiving Day Parade because the couch was piled high with boxes of dusty old magazines and lawn decorations. Annie only liked the last part of the parade where Santa Claus appeared, but watched the rest anyway because there was nothing else to do. Without cable, the little black-and-white TV only picked up one station.
Their mother roused the two girls before dawn that day. They slept in the car on the way, then in the bed where their mother now folded laundry as she grumbled under her breath.
Grampa sat at his workbench, a blank stare frozen on his face. His tools laid unused, as they had for months. The smelly old lady lay in the other bed. Off and on, the bed shook and squeaked, followed by some moans and groans. Annie’s father would then say, “Speak up, Mom, I can’t understand you.”
Despite his angry tone, her daddy never left the bedside. That funny look on his face had been etched there for months now
Annie could remember a time long ago when the old lady didn’t just lie in bed, but that was her real grandmother: the sweet, kind Grandma who took care of her, baked yummy goodies, and gave her candy and presents. But Grandma was gone, replaced by the smelly old lady. She knew intellectually the woman in that bed was her grandmother, but she seemed like a stranger. It’d been so long, poor Chrissie could barely remember their real Grandma.
Seeing a clear place on the bed her mother was working on, Annie got up and planted herself in it. She leaned in to hear the old lady’s weak voice. “Joe, as soon as I get better, I’m going to make you and the girls a pineapple upside-down cake.”
Annie turned to her mother. “Mom, what’s a-”
Her mother cut her off. “Go watch TV, Annie. I’ll tell you later.”
Annie got up and settled back down next to Chrissie, folding her arms in a pout.
Three days later, after dinner, Annie played in her room with Chrissie and their dolls. Off and on, muffled voices in the living room came up through the furnace vent. Chrissie looked troubled. Maybe she had a bad day at school.
After several minutes, one voice grew louder. “Joe, I am sick and tired of this! The next time your father asks for help cleaning his house, YOU do it! I’m not doing it any more. I work, too…” She lowered her voice after that. In a moment, the other voice responded, but Annie had gone back to concentrating on playing with the dolls.
Again, shouting interrupted them. “Oh, just go to bed, Joe. That’s what you always do.” This was followed by a muffled roar and pounding feet. A moment later, the door to her parent’s bedroom whipped open and slammed shut again.
With a funny look on her face, Chrissie turned back to the green doll in her hand. He had been arguing with Mrs. Gardener just a moment before, and now Chrissie took his right hand and began to beat the poor rabbit.
Annie picked up her red doll and had him casually stroll by and glance in the pretend house. She then flew the doll in, and pulled the green doll away from Mrs. Gardener, who lay motionless on the floor.
In the red doll’s voice, she said, “No, Patty, no. Don’t do it, don’t do this.” Her sister let go of the green doll and burst into tears.
A few months later, Annie’s mother put the little girls into black dresses and took them to a funny parlor. They visited old friends and family members, many people introduced as “cousin so-and-so” that she didn’t know and didn’t care to know. They also had to look at a funny-smelling old lady asleep in a brown box. She resembled neither Annie’s real grandma nor the sick one.
At least this time her mom remembered to bring a bag of their favorite storybooks and two sets of crayons and coloring books. Her sister wanted to take some of their dolls with them, but their mother refused because the last time she let them bring their dolls, they left one behind. This time, their mom only let them take quiet things. Otherwise, their Dad would spend the whole time yelling at them.
Annie’s parents took her, Chrissie, and Grampa to look at the old lady. Why was everyone so sad? It’s not like she’d done anything besides lay in bed, whimper, groan, shake, and drool.
Her father said, “Mom looks good. Don’t you think so, Dad?”
The old man began sobbing. Her father hugged him, tears streaking down his cheeks, too. Even her mother had tears in her eyes.
Annie stared at her father and grandfather.
Chrissie started sniffling. “Gramma?”
Annie pinched her sister. “Now don’t you go starting that, Chrissie.”
Chrissie sniffled again, but stopped up her tears.
The following evening, some ladies from the church brought over boxes of food and goodies. Excited, the girls rushed to look through all the boxes. Annie discovered a funny-looking golden cake. Instead of frosting, it had a honey glaze and six large pineapple rings. Gasping, she lifted the cake over her head. “Momma! Daddy! Look! Isn’t this a pineapple upside-down cake? Isn’t it? Isn’t it?”
Her mother took it from her just as her father entered the kitchen. She tried to hide it, but it was too late. He took one glance at that cake, turned ashen, and then took off down the hall. A moment later, his bedroom door slammed shut.
Shrugging, Annie gazed up at her mother. “Can I have a piece?”
Her mother frowned. “Go to your room, Annie!”
Annie pouted. “Why? What’d I say? Can’t I have a-”
Her mother pointed. “Go!”
She stomped to her room, slammed the door, and slumped down on her bed.
Chrissie whispered, “We can’t have any?”
“Why, Sissy? Because of Gramma? I thought she was happy in Heaven, and that we’ll see her again someday. The preacher said so.”
She shrugged. “I guess. I don’t know either. I thought cake was for eating.”
Her sister nodded. “So did I.”
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them and said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”