Today we bring you the July winner of The Electric Discounter Writing Competition:
Winner July 2013 TED Writing Competition
It was summer. I had been promising to take my Grandma to the beach for months but kept putting it off. Every few days, when the sun was shining, she would call me up and ask if I was free. I would always say, “No, Grandma, I already have plans, sorry.”
Then autumn came and the days were cloudy and she died. One moment she was in her favourite chair, the next she was packed under the ground.
One night, shortly after the funeral, I woke and cried until morning.
So I phoned my actress friend Stevie, who owed me a favour, and I asked her to pretend to be my Grandma for a day so I could take her to the beach. She said yes.
I met Stevie at Grandma’s empty flat and she put on Grandma’s old bathing suit, clothes, perfume, and even some of Grandma’s rouge on her cheeks. She said it felt a bit weird but I told her it was important and we had a laugh. I gave her Grandma’s umbrella and I tucked Grandma’s fold-up chair under my arm and we left the flat.
When we stepped outside I began treating Stevie just the way I would have treated Grandma – taking her arm going down steps and paying for her ticket as we climbed onto the tram. She was brilliant at imitating Grandma’s shuddering, arthritic walk. We sat in the seat for the elderly and no one said anything because she was so convincing. Her arm, which clung to mine for support, was as thin as Grandma’s and together with Grandma’s clothes in the corners of my vision, her croaking voice in my ears and her old perfume in my nose, it really felt like I was sitting once again with the real thing.
We rode the tram all the way down to the beach, talking about old times. I told Grandma what my brothers and sisters had been doing and what university was like and how I had been seeing a nice girl the year before but it never really went anywhere.
When we reached the beach, we walked down onto the sand and I opened up Grandma’s chair, lowered her into it, handed her the umbrella and sat beside her. I baked in the sun for a bit then went for a swim. Grandma watched until she became too hot, then shuffled down into the water. I held her hands and walked her back and forth in the shallows under the wharf.
Then I led her off the beach and up onto the esplanade and she shouted me an ice cream. We sat on the sandy steps. Grandma couldn’t eat very fast, so her ice-cream dribbled down her hand. She didn’t even notice until I laughed at it, then she laughed too – in a wheezy way from a lifetime of smoking.
When we’d finished our ice creams, Grandma asked me why it didn’t work out with my old girlfriend. I told her the girl had sensed I was in love with someone else. Grandma asked if that were true. I said yes. She asked, “Who?”
I said an old actress friend of mine.
Grandma was quiet for a long while.
When it began to get cold, we got back on the tram and took it all the way back to Grandma’s flat. I led Grandma in the door and she disappeared into her room.
After a moment, Stevie emerged in her own clothes. She looked at me. “Was all this just so you could tell me that?”
“No,” I said.
She looked at me for a bit more, to see if I was telling the truth. Then she nodded. “OK. Well … you know … my work is everything, right?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Work comes first. That’s why I … that’s why I’m alone. ”
“Yes,” I said.
“Ok,” she said. “So don’t think just because I’ve helped you out here I’m … it’s … I just owed you, OK? Plus, it’s a good chance to practice my craft. I’m gonna be the best actress in the world first and maybe then I’ll think about getting a boyfriend.”
“OK,” I said.
“So we’re even, that’s all.”
“Yes,” I said.
She nodded. Then she smiled and slapped her thighs. “Well!” she said. “I’m going home.”
I walked her down to the bus stop and she caught the bus home.
When I returned to Grandma’s, I discovered Stevie had left her green scarf on the floor. I picked it up. It smelled like Grandma.