"Let's eat grandma" vs "Let's eat, Grandma"
I'm sure you can guess which my story is about.
“Let’s eat grandma.”
The others looked at Nate as if he’d just grown two heads.
“Are you crazy?”
“Have you lost your mind?”
“What is your problem?”
“My problem is that I’m starving,” Nate answered. “We haven’t had anything but stringy rat stew in two weeks. My stomach is fixin’ to eat my backbone if we don’t get some food soon.”
“We’re all hungry,” Blake said. “That doesn’t mean we need to turn into cannibals.”
“What’s the big deal?” Nate asked. “She’s gotta be, what, close to ninety by now? How much longer can she have anyway?”
“I can’t believe you’re even thinkin’ about eating grandma. It’s, it’s disgusting!” Billy snapped. “She’s not dead yet!”
“Well,” Nate asked, “what do y’all suggest we do?”
None of the others had an answer for him. They all looked around at the alley they called home. The cardboard boxes they slept in. The threadbare sheets they covered themselves with, and grandma, huddled in the corner, shivering.
“Look at her,” Nate ordered. When the others had complied, he went on. “She is cold and sick. We’d be doing her a favor. Putting her out of her misery.”
“You talk about her like she was a dog!” Shelly cried. “She’s our grandma!”
“Is she?” Nate asked. “Do any of us really know if the woman is our grandma?”
One by one, they all shook their heads. None of them remembered their families, or a time before the alley. All they remembered, to a child, was hunger, cold, pain, begging, stealing, and grandma. She had always been there it seemed.
“It doesn’t matter if she’s our real grandma,” Billy said. “She takes care of us. That’s what counts.”
The others shook their heads in agreement, but Nate saw them sneak a glance at the crumpled woman. He knew they were listening.
“How does she take care of us exactly?” he asked. “We go out and pick pockets or beg from store owners for what little we get. We get hauled in by the cops when we’re caught, and they can never seem to find grandma when they come looking. We skin and cook the rats, we round up water from the lake; we huddle together under our pitiful sheets to stay warm while grandma sleeps comfortably under three blankets with an overcoat on. Who’s taking care of who?”
Billy didn’t even have an answer for that. He knew Nate was right. All the children did, but what he was talking about was crazy. They couldn’t kill and eat the woman. Could they?
“It doesn’t matter,” Billy decided. “We still can’t eat her.”
The others stood beside him, in front of grandma, a solid barrier between Nate and the old woman. Nate knew he had lost them.
“Okay, okay, I give up. We’ll just eat rats until we die.”
With that, Nate disappeared from the alley. The others took refuge around the pitiful fire Billy started and tried to get warm. Grandma watched them from the corner.
About ten minutes later, when she was sure Nate wasn’t coming right back, Grandma scooted over to the group. “You know he has a point.” She said to the kids.
They all looked at her but kept silent. Nobody knew what she meant. Surely she didn’t mean for them to eat her.
“We are starving. We do need food.”
The children still didn’t speak. They waited to see what Grandma said next.
“The problem is, I’m too old and stringy to feed you kids,” Grandma said.
“We would never eat you!”
“Nate was just being crazy!”
“We won’t let anything happen to you, Grandma,” Billy stated.
“Hush, children,” Grandma said. “I know none of you would hurt me. None of you here right now anyway.”
The children knew she was talking about Nate. The one person missing from their group. They all turned to look toward the end of the alley, afraid he was back. When the old woman in front of them shivered and huddled into herself in fear, the children stood tall.
“We will take care of Nate,” Billy told her.
“Yeah,” Blake added, “we’ll kick him out of the group.”
“I’m afraid that won’t do it,” Grandma replied. “Just because he’s not in the group doesn’t mean he can’t still sneak around.”
She watched as the children absorbed what she was telling them. She forced a tear just in case they weren’t fully on her side yet. They had always done what she told them, but this was different. Still, Grandma was sure she had them when they all joined hands and vowed to protect her. What else could they do, really, she surmised. They were still children after all, and, whether they would admit it or not, they wanted an adult around to guide them.
“If you really want to protect me, we have to take care of Nate,” she told the children.
“What do you mean, take care of him?” Billy asked.
Grandma looked him hard in the eye and said, “I think you know.”
All of the children gasped and stepped back.
“I know, I know,” Grandma said. “It’s not something we want to do, but if we don’t then he will kill me.” When the children still didn’t immediately agree, she added. “Believe me, he will. Probably tonight after you’ve all gone to bed. You know he always stays up late.”
The children did know. Nate roamed around all night sometimes, so much so that the others had grown accustomed to it and no longer heard him, which could mean the end for Grandma.
“It’s him or me, children,” Grandma stated, tears rolling down her face. “I will leave the decision up to you. Just know that whatever you decide is okay with me. I love you all,” she stopped to clear her throat, “and would gladly give my life for you.”
The children all rushed forward and hugged her. Over their heads, Grandma smiled.
Later that night, when Nate came back to the alley, the children were waiting. He lay down in his cardboard box and rolled over. The children pounced. Each using whatever club, stick or pot was handy. It took a while, but, eventually, Nate stopped moving.
Grandma oversaw the dismemberment. The children looked away as she filleted Nate and dug holes to bury and preserve the meat. None of them turned down the stew she served afterward, though. It smelled so much better than rat.