Grandmother's Exit, continued

I walked closer. "Grandmother?" I shook her. Soon as I touched her, I knew I shouldn’t have because she was cold.


I don’t remember running out of that house, down those stairs, down the block, but the next thing I knew I was pounding on Dr. Zimmerman’s door blabbing out my story to my grandmother’s next door neighbor.


He pulled his old leather handbag from the closet, pushed his old straw hat down on his head and followed me back to my grandmother’s house. I couldn’t believe it, she was dead! He checked her pulse, her eyes, her reflexes, he checked everything. He even took out a little mirror from his bag and held it to her nose. Nope, he shook his head, she’s dead. He took the neatly folded blanket my grandmother kept at the foot of her bed and pulled it up over her face. Then he brought me to the kitchen, sat me down and called my mother. Now I heard my mother’s voice on the other end of the line.


"Dead! My God, I’ll be right over."


Dr. Zimmerman and I walked back to the front door and out into the bright sunshine. Somehow the June summer heat seemed more inviting than the dead coolness inside. Dr. Zimmerman made sure the door was unlocked, then he shut it behind us. We sat on the porch swing and waited. My mother arrived a few minutes later. She looked pale and shaken.


Dr. Zimmerman met her half-way down the walk. They talked in hushed tones. He shook his head several times, then he nodded. I heard him say, "Mary, I’m sure." They came up the path together, arm in arm as he patted her hand. Dr. Zimmerman reached for the doorknob and turned it. Nothing happened. He grunted in surprise. "Now I’m sure I checked it." It was unlocked. He tried it again, jiggling it. It still wouldn’t open. He stepped back, his hands on his hips.


My mama started rummaging around in her purse looking for her keys. I leaned over to the window by the door and looked in and nearly died right then and there. Grandmother was sitting on the sofa. I felt like I was going to throw up. I jerked back from that window, I didn’t want her to see me, I stumbled over to where my mama was. I couldn’t speak, I was so scared. I tugged on her arm.


She got mad at me, because she didn’t want me tugging on her arm while she was digging in her purse. She must have seen the look on my face which must have been pretty bad because she followed me over to the window. We both leaned over and looked in. My grandmother was sitting on her couch, her hand propped up on her cane. She turn and looked at us real regal like, then turned her head and stared off into space. It was my mama’s turn to stumble over to Dr. Zimmerman and drag him over to the window. Dr. Zimmerman looked into the window. He gasped and jumped back. He cleared his throat. "O my God!"

We all stared at the front door and collapsed onto the porch swing. A few minutes passed by. We were very still. I didn’t want to go anywhere near that window or that door. Dr. Zimmerman finally spoke.

"Mary, she was dead. I promise you she was very dead. Rigor mortis was beginning to set in ! He shook his head saying, "I don’t understand Mary. I don’t understand." Silence again.

We sat there listening to the cars pass on the street. We heard the children down the block playing. Then, very quietly, we heard the lock click on my grandmother’s door. I wanted to go home. I didn’t want the grownups to think I was scared. No one wanted to get up. We sat. Sat and listened. Sweated.. Sat with our eyes fixed on that doorknob.


Finally DR., Zimmerman stood up. He walked slowly to the door and turned the doorknob. We followed, huddled behind him, peeping at out every now and then. The living room was empty again. No sign of grandmother. I was sure relieved. Then I thought, Oh no, we have to go back to the bedroom. I was hoping my mama would have made me stay outside, but she was holding my hand pretty tight and showed no sign of relaxing her grip. She didn’t say a word.


We all walked slowly down that cool, dark hall, up the stairs, and into her bedroom. There my grandmother was stretched out on the bed, just the way she was before, except the blanket was neatly folded down at the foot of the bed where she always kept it and there on her feet were her favorite walking shoes and her purse and gloves by her side. Dr. Zimmerman walked over and carefully took her hand trying to bend it. "Ri-gor mor-tis", he said. He walked back over to where we were standing took our elbows and steered us out the room and down the stairs to the kitchen. His hands were clammy and trembling. Parking us at the kitchen, he went to the parlor picked up the phone and called the undertaker. Then he went straight to the cabinet and poured two stiff shots, one for my mother and one for himself. They downed them quietly, which was quite interesting to me. Because I’d never seen my mother drink like that before. Then we sat and waited for the undertaker. Nobody said a word.

The doorbell rang and I nearly jumped out of my skin. I noticed when Dr. Zimmerman went to answer it, he went the long way, through the dining room avoiding the stairs leading to my grandmother’s room. I guess, he didn’t want to bump into her in case she decided to get up again.

We heard muffled voices at the door, footsteps in the hall way. He came back to the kitchen as I heard the other footsteps continue up the stairs. We heard the assistants talking then they came to kitchen. The older one jerked his thumb back towards the bedroom and said there’s nobody in there.


Dr. Zimmerman hit the floor with a thud. The next few minutes were spent trying to make sure the doctor hadn’t gone where my grandmother seemed to have trouble going. I think the only reason why my mama didn’t faint was because Dr. Zimmerman beat her to it.  

When we finally revived the doctor, the attendants walked through the rest of the house with my mama and found my grandmother stretched out downstairs on the couch in my grandfather’s study. Just the way she was upstairs, except she was wearing her best morning dress. She was still very dead. We buried her in that dress! We figured that was the one she wanted to wear on that long journey home. The rest of the time, nothing else happened. Except I noticed that the casket was closed, in fact, it was screwed shut for the wake.

The adults all said it was because of the hot weather, but me…I knew better.












 Snip, snap, snout, this tale’s told out! Now you know what it’s about, no doubt!

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