Friday, February 15, 2013

Nana Cash

 “What’s the matter Nana?” Patience had said, leaning against my open back doorway
smoking an electronic cigarette.
Muttering to myself about the events my day it took me a while to work out that this leggy girl, with the shiny fake hair, was in fact my granddaughter.
But as soon as I did up I jumped, arms out and face stretched into a wide grin. It had been so long since I’d seen her that I’m afraid I hugged until she squealed in a voice I hadn’t heard since we buried her mother. Of course I was crying and laughing at the same time as I sat her down with a cup of tea and told her my news about the big win I’d had on the lottery. How it had all arrived that morning by armoured courier from the bank.
For some reason though I just couldn’t seem to summon up the right kind of enthusiasm. “Just all seems too much,” I had commented that morning to the cat as I stacked the bundles of notes into the dresser. What could one person honestly do with that much money apart from waste it and it would make getting the good china plates out really awkward.

These endless notes made me feel a bit queasy; “If you had fifty thousand pounds what would you do with it?” I asked her as I was pouring more tea. Patience had always had money on account of that ne’er do well of a Father whose bubble I had tried to burst a long time ago. So far she had spent her life hoping around the planet with nothing much to do but put together ever more flamboyant outfits for the next party,
“Hide it.” Patience had narrowed her eyes.
“Whatever for?” the speed of her reaction set me on edge.
Standing up she elegantly tossed her cigarette battery through my open back door. That will take a million lifetimes to biodegrade I thought ,but didn’t like to say, after all I didn’t want to fall out again.
“People are thieves Nana. Wake up to my world.” She seemed so tall I didn’t like to contradict.

I’m the kind of person who was always fond of making do, I enjoyed winter evenings darning socks and the springtime’s reusing of old plastic cartons to grow seedlings. It gave me a kind of inner satisfaction making spills from newspaper to save on firelighters and clipping out tokens. In fact I considered myself an extremely wealthy woman even before these piles of cash arrived. After all thanks to my garden, I had enough fruit and vegetables to get me through even the worst of winters. The only thing I hadn’t been able to afford all these years was a little almond tree and the cost of that wouldn’t even put a proper dent in this lot.

As Patience flicked through a lurid magazine her conversation solely seemed to be the latest celebrity scandal and what party she was going to next. I wondered out loud if she didn’t put a little too much “grand’ into granddaughter”. She gave me such a look.
“I wish I had five thousand pounds to get my breasts made bigger.”
What could I say apart from “bloody nonsense?” I blamed Barbie but I knew in my aching heart that motherless girls were always insecure.
In an effort to distract her I showed her the contents of the dresser and explained, I’d like to “give it all away to people who really need it.”
Patience sighed, impatient with my parochial attitude explaining that even in feeding centres they did not pick the most starving babies to feed but the ones most likely to survive.
What a horrible choice.  Well now I knew where to donate the money, Patience had come up trumps; pushing the cat off from his energetic kneading of my fleecy trousers I fetched an armour plated Jiffy bag and wrote The Feeding Centre on it. Now that felt organised. But then I paused, how could I find the right address?
Patience had a phone that knew the answer to everything so she offered to find it for me but while she was swiping the screen she started to question me.
 “Try to imagine Nana what will happen if someone in the post room finds an envelope with fifty grand in it.” Patience was obviously not as impressed as I had hoped she would be. 

How had she got such a patronising tendency?  But I had to admit she was right about sending money through the post. Perhaps I should deliver it myself.
Now, that seemed a good idea right there. I pictured myself handing a suitcase of money to a proud-faced tribal elder and of course I wouldn’t be able to resist indulging herself in a bit of their grateful hospitality. Then when I’d had enough I could jump on a plane and get back to the cat. In the face of their unrestrained thanks, “Dim problem” I would say, ‘no worries’.

Patience could see potential problems with this idea.
“Wouldn’t the next door village want to know why you didn’t give them the money?”  Patience simultaneously arched both eyebrows.
I asked if she couldn’t find somewhere on her smarty phone, an isolated tribe with no neighbours at all?”
“Again, not realistic Nana. The world is small, all of the good places are populated.”  Such an air of authority I found myself nodding along.
“What about if I divided the money so that everyone in a whole region could benefit?”
“But…” Didn’t my Patience seem to know all the buts?
“However big you make the area, someone will always be the next door neighbour watching: and that’s got to hurt.” Patience looked intensely into my eyes daring me to contradict.
I could see some wisdom in this, so I scrapped the ‘random village idea’ even though I had liked the bit about how grateful they might be.  The more I thought about it, the more difficult it seemed to become.

Patience professed herself, ‘bored’ by the exercise of what to do with the money, declaring herself  ‘exhausted’ she went to lay down in my bedroom moaning about the rain.
Filled with missionary zeal, I spent the next hour tapping her phone looking for people who feed starving children. All of the main charities seemed to spend a fortune on ‘administration’ costs, perhaps Patience was right if I gave money to one person, would someone else always lose out? Not to mention the problem of unintended consequences, there seemed no easy way to change the world. I marched into the bedroom protesting, “What if my investment was responsible for a violent robbery or even a war?”

Patience feigned sleep but I kept on; “I don’t have enough to fund them all, how can I choose?”
“Stop worrying about it Nana nothing can be a hundred percent good” Patience said without opening her eyes. “Perhaps you should just give fifty thousand people a pound each.”
“Don’t be silly dear, what use would that be?” I could hear the pitch in my voice going up with irritation at this spoiled rich girl. Not for the first time that day I wondered if it was a good thing that Patience hadn’t a grasp of the nightmare of poverty.

“If I were you, first thing I would do is get buying myself a little almond tree.” Patience sat up suddenly alert. “That way you will leave someone a legacy whatever happens”
Delighted to find common ground at last and that the girl shared my love of nature if not grammar, I patted her shiny head. 
“Ahh, the acorn never falls far from the tree”.  I didn’t want to be a martyr; perhaps planting nut and fruit trees was the only sure way of feeding the people of the future.
I followed Patience into the kitchen to find that she had brought me an enormous chocolate cake.
“Ooh mhmm ” I could hear myself moaning, as the creamy sweet chocolaty flavour drenched my mouth.
That’s when I felt my first gush of warm love for my dear Patience. All that drifting around the world like a leaf in the wind, never staying more than a few months in any one place, always too busy to come home to visit. Maybe this was her way of making it up to me. Obviously she didn’t think herself too grand to get a train two hundred miles to bring a smile to an old woman’s face, or too busy to forget her Nana’s love of cake. Surely I had judged the child too harshly?

“Look” Patience cried out with the excitement of a three year old, “the sun’s coming out”
Miraculously, the wet day was transforming itself into a glorious late summer afternoon. We moved the table and chairs outside to admire the late bloomers.  And after another slice of cake, we took off for a little promenade around the flowerbeds giving me a chance to recount the tales of my rare “varieties.” With a glass of elderflower champagne held close to her face, Patience listened smiling at my anecdotes. But then she started to look like a girl again as together we picked a whole colander of wild strawberries. Popping as many of the tiny jewels as we could into our mouths, the juice literally ran down our chins until we were shrieking laughing. We even picked out a place for the imaginary almond tree.

Six o’clock seemed to come in the blink of an eye. Suddenly I was squeezing my darling Patience as tight as I could, and pecking at her downy cheek, before she had to leave. Secretly I squeezed a fistful of notes into the girl’s lavishly impractical coat pocket, not that she needed them but to thank her for my wonderful birthday. Tears prickled my eyes as I stood at the little wooden gate watching her go. How had I become so tight hearted? How could I think all those bad thoughts about my child’s only child?

As the whole garden was bathed gold by the dying sunlight, I saw myself planting the almond tree I’d always wanted and burying the banknotes beside it.  I would leave a treasure map for Patience in my will, it was what people had always done; let the young people decide for themselves what to do with it, perhaps it was just the natural thing to do. My death was still twenty years or more away, Patience for all her conceited bravado would be elderly herself one day and hopefully grown up enough to see this coming and not fritter the money on superficial stupidities. Happy to have the issue once, and for all resolved I went indoors and offered the cat an early night. As soon as the cool cotton sheets stroked my sun kissed skin I was snoring like a lion.

But, four hours later, a fly landed on my face.
Although it was only there for a moment, it was long enough to bring me immediately awake. Eyes wide open in the pitch black room I swiped the air fruitlessly.
“Very bright my Patience,” I found myself saying, as if the cat had questioned the fact. “Very bright girl, indeed.”
Perhaps, Patience was even canny enough not to react excessively to the idea of Nana donating her wealth to charity.  Not react that is, except to suggest a place to hide it.  
Then I remembered her terrible dream. Patience dressed in rhinestone-studded overalls hacking away at the base of my almond tree. Again and again I could hear the spade chopping down into the roots of that dainty little tree without a thought except getting her manicured hands on that boob-enhancing, tummy tucking money. 
Rubbing the sweat from my palms onto the coverlet, I pushed off my damp bedcovers to sit up properly. Oh my good goodness how had I got so naive to think that she wouldn’t be back as soon as my back was turned?  The little minx, pretending she was helping her Nan, when all along she was making sure she knew where to find the booty. I had to stop that wicked girl from stealing from her, for both our sakes.

Clambering out of bed trying not to disturb my apparently boneless cat I padded through the quiet house into the kitchen.  Then, pulling my coat on over my pyjamas I opened the kitchen door.  A colossal, cool silver moon hung low over the far end of the garden where the compost was kept. At that very moment I knew for absolute sure, what use I could find for that nasty trouble creating money.

Paper, being an excellent source of carbon and my wild strawberries always ravenous for nutrients, all I had to do now was shred it. Now where are my scissors?


The End

[2160 words]

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