“Have you ever tried a plum?” Grammy Gladys asked as she gingerly shined the dark fruit with the hem of her yellow and blue striped shirt.
“Those are only for old people,” I replied without looking at her, completely absorbed in my task of peeling faded paint from the porch railing.
“OH you’re a fresh little girl, Sarah,” she snapped back. I stopped what I was doing and watched her from my perch on the stair step. She sat below me, in an old wicker chair placed strategically in the shade. Even in the shadows, her tight platinum curls glimmered with her every movement. She shifted with annoyance, “This chair is so uncomfortable, it’s doing absolutely nothing for my back,” her voice was extra nasally, the summer pollen and my dog’s fur were doing a number on her allergies- something she reminded my mother of sharply every morning.
After several huffs and groans, she settled herself and turned her attention back to the plum. She lovingly raised it to her mouth and sank her teeth into it, their whiteness standing out vividly against the deep red of the fruit’s flesh. She closed her eyes and slowly chewed, an expression of pure bliss on her face. “Oh, Sarah,” she said through a mouthful of plum, “It’s so sweet, just try it.”
“I don’t like plums!” I announced turning my attention back to my task of exposing the pale wood beneath the paint.
“ Just try it!” She once again insisted, her tone rising, “And stop picking at that paint! Your father needs to spend some more time focusing on this house and less on work. My god it’s falling apart, your poor mother is living in shambles,” Grammy Gladys was yelling at this point. Through the screen door, I could faintly hear my mother repeating one more week to herself over and over again.
“No plums!” I exclaimed, hopping off the deck and onto the dulled tar driveway. I ran over to a forgotten about pile of chalk and picked up a well used piece of blue. On all fours, I drew the outline of a flower, the afternoon sun beating down on my head and exposed neck. The wicker chair let out a sigh of relief as my grandmother eased herself out of it. She walked to the edge of the deck, I could feel her watching me. The blue was laid aside and pink petals emerged.
“If you use yellow, orange, and red, the middle of the flower will look more real, honey,” she directed me from above, “No, don’t strike lines, use lots of little dots. See? Much better,” her tone was gentle, but held an air of smugness to it. I hopped up from the ground and scrambled up the three stairs to stand beside her. Together we looked at the flower. Not taking my eyes away from it, I reached my hand out. She placed the half eaten plum into my outstretched palm, then lightly scratched my shoulder with her long, red fingernails. I took the tiniest of nibbles. I looked up at her.
She took her gold-wired glasses off and wiped at the sweat that had pooled beneath their frames, “Its good, right?” She rubbed the glasses on the soft material of her shirt, then replaced them. I gave a small nod, despite the protest from my little girl taste buds. “That’s a good girl. And just look at how lovely your flower is. You might be a great artist one day,” she put her arm around me, “You get that from my side.” She kissed me on the top of my head, her Estee Lauder perfume filling my nostrils.
I smiled up at her, and she turned her head to look at me. She smiled back, her dark eyes sparkling maliciously, “Oh those teeth of yours are coming in terribly. Smile at me the way I showed you. There, that’s so much better.”