Over the River (Part One), a Short Story

PART ONE 

Thursday, Oct. 16, 1986

On Thursdays, I go to my grandma’s. 

She’s not like other grandmas- the ones that come to Grandparent’s Day at school and wear flowery dresses dresses and wear their hair all short and white. My grandma is special. 

My grandma is a witch. 

My mom doesn’t like my grandma because she says that God says we shouldn’t be witches. But my dad takes me there because my dad has to work on Thursdays and Fridays, and he says she’s not a witch. He says she just tells stories. He says my mom just doesn’t like my Grandma Judy because her and my Dad went to court and the judge says I gotta go there on three days a week, on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and then my mom picks me up on Sunday morning cause I go to Sunday School and Children’s church every week. 

My Sunday School is at Calvary Bible Church, and my teacher is Carrie Anne, she’s in high school but we go to a small church so she gets to teach the girls class. I love her. She has red hair and she wears pink lipstick that matches her fingernails. 

My Grandma Judy matches her lipstick to her fingernails, too. Last week they were purple. Dark purple like grapes, all on the ends of her fingers. And her lips, too, dark purple, only it didn’t look like dark purple so much because her skin is dark, too. It just looks shiny.

Grandma Judy painted my nails dark purple, too, only they don’t look like grapes cause I bite them every night when I watch TV. It just looked like little teeny strips of purple at the ends of my fingers until I chewed off most of it. Anyway, I have to have the nail polish cleaned off before I go to bed on Saturdays cause I can’t have it on Sundays, cause my mom says I’m too young. 

I guess high school is the age for nail polish if you’re Christian. 

I’m Christian, my mom says, cause I said the prayer and got a new bible when I was seven at church camp. I didn’t say that one that says “Now-I-lay-me,” I just said the one that says, “Come-in-to-my-heart” because that’s the one that counts. My mom says the Now-I-lay-me one is just a rhyme, and God doesn’t like rhymes for prayers. 

My Grandma Judy always makes me say my prayers when I go to bed, and she likes to listen, and she likes it when I say the Now-I-lay-me one, because she says it’s good to know if your soul goes to God when you die.  

My Grandma isn’t Christian. I don’t know where her soul goes. 

My dad says it’s just a story, that my mom says it about anybody she don’t like, but she don’t like my dad and she never says it about him. She asks me sometimes if my Grandma ever taught me bad stuff about stars or spells or anything, and I say no, because I never saw a witches hat or a bubbling pot at my Grandma’s, and she only has one cat, and he’s not black, he’s orange and he is fat, and witch’s cats are black and skinny. 

But she is a witch, I know, because one time I asked her why she can’t come to my Easter play at church, when I was going to be the first angel and sing the first two lines of the kids’ song as a solo, and she said she can’t ever come to the church because they hate witches, and I said that witches aren’t real, and she said “you know everything do you” and then she looked at me like I was in trouble. 

But I never really get in trouble from Grandma Judy. 

Grandma Judy is not like my mom, and here are the ways. 

  1. My mom says lots of things, she talks on the phone all the time and she always yells at me and Becky but Grandma Judy hardly talks ever, and her voice is real slow and quiet. 
  2. My mom wears high heels and she has two kids, me and Becky, and she works at a daycare when we are at school, except when she has to work late and me and Becky go to the after-school care at where she works. My Grandma Judy always stays at home because she is retired from a DMV office. 
  3. My mom has two kids and is not married, my dad lives at an apartment next to my Grandma Judy, that’s how come I go to her house and see him, too. My Grandma Judy was married to my Grandpa who died, I don’t know his name right now but there are a lot of pictures of him at her house, and he could ride a bicycle with only one wheel, my dad told me. My dad is their only kid. 
  4. My mom is mad a LOT. Like when the house is messy (like every day) and when we are late or when I forget to bring a paper home from school. My dad gets mad too, not as much but he is a lot angrier than she is when he is mad. My Grandma Judy does not get mad. Even when you spill something, she just looks at it and says to get a cloth from the rag basket under the sink to wipe it up. 
  5. My Grandma Judy can sing real good, and she knows all the songs from the cartoon shows because she always sits and holds me when I watch them. My mom only holds me and Becky if we are really good and the house is clean and then it is only for a minute and she will say “You’re smothering me with your hot breath, ain’t it time for bed.”  
  6. The last thing and the big thing about mom and Grandma Judy is that mom is going to heaven and Grandma Judy is probably going to hell. 

Oct. 30, 1986

Today is Thursday, and I am at home, not at Grandma’s. Tomorrow is Halloween, and I thought that since it is the witch holiday and I would be with Grandma (for the first time on Halloween ever) that I would see the witch stuff for real. 

But my mom came to parent pick up and said that I was not going to there because Grandma Judy is sick and doesn’t want me to catch a cold.

I think it was my mom that said I can’t go because she doesn’t like Halloween. She says it is the devil’s holiday and we can’t even go to Hallelujah night, which is at church and you only dress up as Bible characters, which I would be Mary or the Pharaoh’s daughter, or Esther, because they all wear the same thing, just a robe and a cloth on your head or a crown if you make one. But mom says we don’t copy the devil’s holidays and call it by God’s names. So me and Becky don’t get any candy unless there is a party at school, and then everyone gets candy even if you don’t dress up. 

Becky doesn’t go to Grandma Judy’s because her dad is Lyn, he is a man who my mom used to date when her and my dad broke up. But my dad still lives here and Lyn went to North Carolina and only sees Becky in the summer. 

Becky says she is going to wear her super girl shirt to school tomorrow and bring our red pillowcase to tie on her neck like a cape to be Supergirl. I don’t know. I would be a princess if I could but I know all the girls in my class would have real costumes and I have no dresses like princess dresses, not even those big fluffy easter dresses which I know some girls wear (like at picture day) so I guess I will not wear anything cause it doesn’t matter at school, you still get candy and go to the pizza party. 

Also I want to say that I don’t believe Grandma Judy is sick because she has lots of vitamins she puts in her water every morning and she takes walks faster than anyone. 

I have been thinking about heaven and hell and about how witches don’t go to heaven. Carrie Anne said that heaven is not like all clouds and harps, it is like life only better. But my dad says hell’s not a real place and I don’t have to worry about it. 

But I do worry about it, cause how can he know? If church says heaven and hell like they are real places, and mom says it is real, how can all of them be wrong and only he know? 

Also I think even Grandma Judy believes in hell because one time she said to me when I was having an attitude problem that I should fix myself because “only the pure in heart can see God,” and I said nobody could see God, cause he’s invisible, and she said everyone either sees the light or the flame at the end. 

So I think she’s probably right, cause if a witch and a Sunday School class both say the same thing it’s gotta be true. 

But I don’t get why she doesn’t worry about it. It’s her soul that won’t go to God, isn’t it? So why do I worry about it and she doesn’t? 


Nov. 20, 1986

Today is Thursday again, and next week is Thanksgiving. This is the second holiday since I started going to my Grandma Judy’s, and the first one I get to go to her house. 

My mom is not happy that I am going to go, because she said she is the “primary” parent and my dad just has “visitation” and he has to work till night time anyway, even on Thanksgiving, and he said that she can have Christmas, and he can have the turkey day, and it doesn’t matter if he has to work because we are going to eat late anyway. 

And then Mom said why doesn’t he just come back over to our house and we all eat together, like a family. And Dad said we aren’t a family, Gol-dang-it Donna (only he said the bad words), we ain’t been a family since that brat was born, (and he means Becky cause she ain’t his.) And Mom says You know that was a mistake, Mark, you know it was one time, a one time fluke, and I always wanted to be with you, and I’ve changed, you know I cleaned up (she means drugs) and he says he don’t care about cleaned up, he never asked her to clean up, he just wanted her to not sleep with other people and then mom seen me at the door and told me to get my nose out of her business. 

But it’s my business, too, isn’t it? 


Nov 21, 1989

Today I asked my Grandma if she really was  a witch, and she said, “Who told you to ask me that?” And I said that I didn’t know, but could she really do spells. And she was quiet for a long time and I thought she didn’t hear me but then she stopped cutting up carrots and she sat at the table with me and she said this: 

“Honey,” she said, because that’s what she calls me, “Honey, being a witch is not what you think. I know you think witches ride on brooms and put curses on princesses to fall asleep for a hundred years, but that’s not being a witch at all (and I didn’t think they put curses like that, because that’s evil fairies, but I was just trying to tell you what she said) 

And then she said, “I just follow an old way of living that helps me to connect with myself and with the earth, and sometimes that looks a little more magical than other people like to think about, do you understand?” and I nodded, but I didn’t understand at all. I asked her if she can do spells, and her mouth twisted a little bit and she said she did some spells for good things, like for her hips to stop aching and for Tony (that was her neighbor) when he couldn’t find his dog a couple weeks ago, and she said, didn’t they find that dog not too long later? And was it wrong to try to find some relief for a few aches and pains? 

And then I asked her about if witches are okay with God, and she said she didn’t know why God would be mad at her, because she always tried to be a good witch, like Glinda (from the tornado movie). And I asked her then why she wouldn’t go to church and she said, “Because people don’t understand things, and when they don’t understand, they get real upset.” 

And so then I asked her if witches could go to heaven then, if she was a good witch, and she said, “That’s the question, isn’t it, honey.” But she didn’t answer me, she just hugged me and I asked her if I was a witch because I’m her granddaughter and she said that I could be whatever I wanted to be, only as long as I was good to everybody, because that’s what witches say is the most important thing. 

I don’t know anything about witches anymore, I guess. 


Nov. 23, 1989

My mom is real mad. I guess when I got picked up from Grandma Judy’s, my Grandma Judy told her she didn’t like me going to a church where they talk about hating people and going to hell and things and my mom said a bunch of mean stuff and now we are not going to our church today at all and maybe not even Grandma Judy’s, because mom said she is calling my dad and saying that she is going to go back and tell the judge about the witch stuff and see if he lets me go over there anymore. I don’t think she is a bad witch! I wish my mom knew that my Grandma Judy is just a nice lady who is trying to be nice and not be so mad at her. 

We are driving over the big bridge, so I guess we are going to my other Grandma Mary’s house. My Grandma Mary is not my real Grandma. She is a lady that we used to live with back when Becky was a baby and my mom was trying to get clean from the drugs and stuff. Grandma Mary is real nice, like my Grandma Judy, except she is real big and when you hug her she feels fluffy and soft like a pillow and her hair is real big and fluffy too. I love Grandma Mary and I didn’t get to see her ever since school started because it is a long drive. 


Still Nov. 23 (only night time now)

When we got to Grandma Mary’s she was so excited to see us, she was already done with church and she was putting lunch on the table. Grandma Mary makes a real dinner after church, not just peanut butter sandwiches, and of course Grandpa Joe was there, and so was other people from her church (The lady was Darlene and I don’t know what the man’s name was, I forgot) and we had hot dogs and baked beans and potato chips and banana pudding and then me and Becky got to watch a movie while the grownups were talking at the table. 

And then Grandma Mary came in and sat with me and rocked me and asked me all kinds of questions- she always does- and listened to everything I said. And I told her about the science fair and about how I have a tooth coming in above my tooth so that I am like a shark, and I told her what I want for Christmas, and I told her that Becky drew on the cover of my new school notebook, and then she said she had some stickers that I could put on it that would cover over Becky’s scribbles. And then she asked me if I like going to my Dad’s, and I told her that I mostly go to my Grandma Judy’s, and then I asked her if she thinks that witches go to hell, and she asked me if I know any real witches, and I told her that I think maybe there are secret witches who are really nice people, and maybe they just don’t say they are witches because people will be mean to them. 

And then she asked me why someone would want to be a witch. And I didn’t know. Why would you want to be a witch if everyone would be mean to you? But then I thought about spells and magic and I said if I was a witch I would make my mom and my dad not be fighting and I would make Becky to not wet the bed, because she is embarrassed about it. 

And Grandma Mary said I could pray about those things, and I told her that I only know now-i-lay-me and God-bless-mom and God-bless-dad because I already said Come-into-my-heart, and she said to me, “You can pray about anything, it’s just like talking to me. God listens to you.”And then she said to me something strange: She said: “And sometimes, God talks back.”

___________________________________

This is a story in three parts. Come back next week for part two! If you’d like to be reminded, subscribe by email! 🙂

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