Granny has this book called Greek Myths, which she carries around everywhere. When I ask her what it’s about, she screws her eyes and makes a kffff sound like it hurts.
It’s about everything, my dear, she laughs. It’s all of life! Here goes.
She rests her hand on the cover of the book and shuts her eyes. Her hand is as stiff as pottery, the knuckles like ball bearings. She seems to catch a scent on the air; her nose goes up.
There’s Zeus! She points a blue-veined finger toward the bay window. Hades! (The conservatory door). Hermes! (A cushion). Artemis! (Another cushion).
I nod and, because she has her eyes closed, I pinch another couple of Quality Street from the tin. I slide them into my pocket (the purple kind with the gooey caramel and nuts – Granny’s favourites).
She is clutching the Greek Myths book the day my parents take her to the house with all the lawn. I have to go with them, even though there’s football on the telly. I sit in the back seat with Granny. She is flipping through the book quickly, not sticking on a page for any time, muttering a word here and there – though nothing I can understand. She drools herself to sleep once my dad reaches 80 mph on the motorway. I lean over to read what her finger is touching:
In a certain pleasant valley, surrounded by low mountains, there was once a very wicked village.
The house is green-painted; it smells of plastic and cleaner. My dad leads Granny around with his hand at her back, just above the bum. She holds the Greek Myths book out in front of her like it’s a steering wheel or a map. My mum walks behind me, and I walk behind Granny – a sort of parade. There are old people everywhere – some sitting in armchairs, some shuffling around even more slowly than we are. Some are just frozen in place. In mid-stand or mid-sit – it’s hard to tell.
In the cafeteria, my mum loses it. She lunges for the book, trying to rugby tackle it off her. They wrestle, and the book skids across the floor. Granny bends to pick it up a few times; but each time, she just nudges it along the ground with her knuckles. My dad rests his face in his palms. Mum snaps at me when I try to snatch it off her.
Granny flashes me a look, a smile, when she gets up off the floor.
The book has a picture of a round-faced man with a curly beard. Curly like girls’ hair. Zeus.
On the way home, I shout at my parents so much that they stop the car. They don’t turn around, so I yell into the backs of their heads.
We need to take the book back to Granny! We stole it from her!
We didn’t steal anything, says my mother. I see her in the wing mirror. Her face is all puffy and red. Just skin. I reach out to her shoulder – to pinch or pull at her blouse – but she does nothing to shrug me off. She doesn’t move at all. I can’t tell if I’m even touching her.
I pull my hand away, and then we start driving again.
I open the book at any page:
Argus was a watchman with a hundred eyes, set in a circle all around his head. When he slept, he closed only two eyes at a time; the other ninety-eight were always wide open. So it could not have been easy to steal away with anything that Argus was watching.
When we come to a stop in our driveway, my mum swings open the car door and gets out. After a few seconds, my dad cuts the engine. He pushes his hand through his hair. Coming? he says into the rearview mirror, but I shake my head. My dad’s eyes hover in the mirror before disappearing. We’ll be inside, alright? he says, leaving.
The door shuts with a whump.
I stay where I am in the back seat. I cannot move because Granny is in the middle of the front lawn, seated on one of her old wooden chairs. She is just there in the moonlight, her eyes sewn shut, her back straight as if she’s about to spring out of it. Behind her is Zeus. He is standing completely still. I know it is Zeus because he has the same curly locks and fat face from the book’s cover. He’s dressed in white sheets with a rope around his waist and he has his hand gently resting on Granny’s shoulder. Unlike the picture on the front of the book, his face is actually less fat. It is harder, thinner, almost grey in the darkness.
I bite my lip. I know it’s not real, but still. It’s there. I feel the book in my hands as I stare at Granny and Zeus; I trace the letters on the cover, reading Greek and Myths with the tips of my fingers, keeping my eyes on the lawn.
Then I open the book at the first page.
Photo By: Timothy Vogel