Prompt Day #174: Literally kill a person with kindness
“Well, Hello Dear! What a wonderful surprise.” Grandma Jenny said opening the door to discover her eldest grandchild Lauren standing beside a disheveled young man with a shaggy haircut. “And who is this young man with you?”
Lauren gave her grandma a kiss on the cheek and then wrapped her arm around the man’s and squeezed. “This is Chad, Grandma, my fiancé”
Of course Grandma Jenny already knew who the boy was. Her daughter had called her this morning in a panic. Lauren showed up from college break with this boy who, her mother had learned dropped out halfway through his first semester and had been living off the kindness of his friends and what money he was making as a DJ at the local bars. Unbeknownst to Carol, Lauren’s mother, Chad had been living with Lauren and had just prior to their coming home for break, proposed.
“Oh my goodness! Congratulations!” Grandma Jenny feigned surprise and excitement and hugged her granddaughter once again. “Back in my day, a man had to ask permission for his girl’s hand from her father and her family. How times have changed.” She smiled and patted Chad on the shoulder. Chad laughed and held his hand out.
“Hey there, Grams. Lauren talks about you all the time.” He said
“Well come in, come in you two and sit down. Let me get you a drink and some cookies.” Grandma Jenny said
“Grandma’s cookies are practically famous” Lauren told Chad
“Here we go” said Grandma “My famous peanut butter cookies and some nice earl grey tea”
“Oh, Uh, I’m allergic to peanuts” Chad said. Grandma Jenny smiled and without saying a word, picked up the tray and quietly walked it back to the kitchen. She returned with sodas and brownies.
“Ooh, now chocolate, I like” Chad said grabbing two squares. Grandma Jenny suppressed an eye roll.
“So, Grandma, how have you been?” Lauren said. Grandma Jenny knew this tactic. When Lauren wanted something, she always started out with nonchalant conversation starters only to weave her true intentions into the conversation like a master seamstress. So she nodded and said she’d been keeping herself busy. “Because I worry about you being here all by yourself, you know, since Grandpa passed.”
What was she up to, Grandma Jenny wondered. “Oh, you know your grand-dad would be upset with me if I just sat around and wallowed in grief. I’m old, Lauren, I’m not dead. I have my swimercise class and my book club. And I’m always tinkering in the kitchen.”
“Well, I think if you had a man around, I would feel a lot better about your safety.” Lauren said her true motive revealed. “In fact, Chad here needs a place to stay while he finds a job. You know I want to move back home here next year, and Chad is out of school, so it would be a win-win situation, I think”
Grandma Jenny wasn’t stupid, and she wasn’t sweet and innocent. Again, she said nothing, just listened and smiled. She sipped her soda and finally nodded. “It does seem reasonable, and it gives me the opportunity to get to know my future grandson-in-law, wouldn’t it?”
Lauren brightened up and looked at Chad. His Cheshire cat grin angered Grandma Jenny but she just put on her sweet as pie grandma face and said nothing. Inside though, she plotted.
The rest of the visit went well. Lauren explained that while she did not yet have an engagement ring, as soon as Chad found a job and was able to put some money aside, he’d promised her one. Chad explained that he was, of course, looking to “break into the DJ business” but until then, he needed some way to provide for his wife. Lauren assured her grandmother that Chad, also known as Chazzy-Blue because he samples jazz and blues in his music, was a very talented DJ and had lots of prospects. They both believed he would someday be a famous DJ and they’d both be living in LA, but until then, he’d need something local.
“Nothing full time or with long hours that would interfere with me getting demos made and out there” Chad corrected, just in case Grandma Jenny was thinking of calling on any of her many connections in town. “Maybe a few nights bartending, you know where the tips can make up for only working part time.”
Lauren interrupted “He’d be making the demos at our place in the garage, so you wouldn’t have to worry about the noise.”
“Yep. True that Grams. I’ll just need to borrow your car those days. Lauren’ll be taking hers back to school with her.” Chad added. This was getting better and better Grandma Jenny thought but still remained pleasantly stoic.
One week later, Chad moved in to Jenny’s guest bedroom. His first night in the house, Grandma Jenny prepared a good old fashioned dinner of corn bread, fried chicken (fried in pure lard—the only way to cook Jenny would say), home-fries with peppers and onions and homemade bread with lots of butter. Chad, used to living on take out and left overs, ate himself sick, washing it down with whole milk.
He slept long and late the next day. Grandma Jenny waited patiently however and when he finally woke, she made him what she called her “Lumberjack specialty” breakfast. He gobbled it up, borrowed her car and spent the next six hours in his future in-laws’ garage mixing jazz and hip-hop.
Chad was so well taken care of by Grandma Jenny that he forgot to get a job. She lent him money when he needed anything. She bought him clothes and left them out on his bed—he needed new ones; his were getting a little tight around the belly. She kept her candy dishes stocked full of peanut-free chocolates and had home-cooked meals complete with dessert cooked for him every night.
“No wonder Lauren loves you so much” Chazzy-Blue told her one day “You’re the sweetest Grams ever!” He grabbed his lunch she packed (ham salad sandwich, snickerdoodle cookies, a banana, and a coke) and kissed her on the cheek “so, you have to take my side when Lauren yells at me for getting so fat!”
Grandma Jenny laughed and hugged him “You needed a little meat on your bones. Besides, a good old fashioned, home-cooked meal never killed anyone!” She shooed him out the door and off to the garage. She washed his sheets and clothes then baked a batch of cinnamon rolls for later. He came home earlier than she expected and ate a few cinnamon rolls with his new favorite whole milk and went to bed.
Over the next four months, Chad gained seventy-five pounds and rarely made it out of bed before noon. He only occasionally made it out of the house to Lauren’s parents’ garage choosing instead to sit with Grandma Jenny and watch her soaps. She calmly explained all the back stories and always made the best TV snacks. She rubbed his back and his feet when he did manage to go to the garage for a few hours and she bought him the comfiest chair to sit at the mixing table.
Chad was worried when Grandma Jenny caught him smoking outside and begged her not to tell Lauren that he had started up again.
“I just need to stop eating so much of your delicious food” he said grinning sheepishly. She only rubbed his arm and assured him it would be their little secret. Soon enough, Grandma was buying his cigarettes too. Occasionally, when Chad had been especially good, she picked up a case of beer for him as well.
When Chad started to develop sleep apnea, Grandma Jenny made him a doctor’s appointment and drove him there herself. She took him for all the tests the doctor ordered and took him out to dinner afterwards to help him feel better about his sudden downturn in health. When he got the diagnosis of diabetes, she sat with him while he cried. She helped him make a diet list and promised to make him healthier meals. She helped him put his bipap mask on every night and cleaned the tubing for him when it was due. She helped him log his blood sugars and when, for some reason, they were no better, helped give him his insulin.
Taking care of Chad seemed to be taking a toll on Grandma Jenny, her knees weren’t what they used to be and her memory suffered sometimes too. Lauren could tell when she would call the house. Grandma would often take longer to reply or contradict herself when Lauren would ask about Chad. But Grandma Jenny loved Chad and would simply do anything for him. She told Lauren as much before ending the phone calls. Lauren rarely got to speak to Chad, he was always so busy working at the bar or at the garage but Grandma always made her feel better saying that he was a good man, working so hard she worried about his health.
“That boy’s going to give himself a heart attack!” She’d tell Lauren.
Lauren couldn’t come home for Christmas, she stayed on as a teaching assistant in the lab, and helping with research. Grandma Jenny spoiled Chad in her place. She insisted that cheating on your diabetic diet just a little on the holidays never hurt anyone. She just couldn’t bear to see him so miserable, what with Lauren gone. She filled his stocking with cigarettes and the toasted Christmas Eve with a few glasses of Hot Buttered Rum.
Grandma Jenny had a lot on her plate now that Chad required so much help. She sometimes messed up on his insulin dose—but it was purely accidental, just “old lady absentmindedness” she’d say when apologizing to him and to make up for it, she’d sneak him candy bars or take him on wheelchair rides outside to smoke. She even dug out her husband’s old wheelchair at home because Chad was having trouble with his feet anyways, so she told him there was no sense in him walking around, not when she could push him through the house.
When he came home from the hospital, she had a big meal waiting for him. His favorite in fact—her famous fried chicken and corn bread. She told him that she was sure it would be fine since she had given him too much insulin in the first place so he had extra in his system to handle all those carbs. It made sense to him and he even had a second piece of coconut cream pie for dessert.
Chad was exhausted and the carbs were kicking in so he decided to go to bed early that night. Grandma Jenny was pretty tired too after such a strenuous day. But she didn’t want Chad to think she’d forget their night time ritual of milk and cookies. They were all out of the diabetic cookies she usually bought for him so she grabbed two homemade ones off the tray she had made for the church’s bake sale and took them in.
“Thanks, Grams” Chad said, keeping his eyes glued to the big screen TV she had had installed for him. She kissed him on the cheek and reminded him that Lauren would be home now in three short weeks so we needed to get him feeling better. She went to bed, turning her own little TV up loud so she could hear it over his next door. She usually didn’t like to have the TV on at bedtime but tonight she felt a little uneasy for some reason and wanted the comfort.
Chad slept late the next morning and by two pm, when he still hadn’t gotten up, Grandma Jenny went in to rouse him. She smiled seeing only crumbs on the cookie plate and the milk glass half empty.
“Chad, I think you’ve slept long enough” She said and shook his shoulder…his cold, hard shoulder. She rolled him over onto his back and screamed. His face was purple and swollen. His black, bloated tongue puffed out between his equally over-inflated lips. His eyes were covered by puffy lids. If she wasn’t sure it was Chad in this bed when she’d left the room last night, she would not have recognized this dead corpse in front of her, his face was so distorted by edema.
She called 911, knowing full well it was too late. She stood helpless as the paramedics first assessed him and then pronounced him dead. She answered all their questions to the best of her ability, she retrieved his bag of medications she kept for him in the bathroom.
“Any allergies?” The medic asked filling in the required boxes on his form.
“Does that even matter now?” she asked tearing up a little
“Well, for completeness sake ma’am, I’m sorry to ask all these questions, but as much as we can figure out”
“Peanuts.” She interrupted “Peanuts is his only” she stopped and brought a hand to her mouth. “Oh no. The cookies I gave him before bed last night, they were my famous peanut butter cookies.” She fell back into the arm chair.
“Anaphylaxis sure fits this picture, I’m sorry to say, Ma’am” the medic said.
Grandma Jenny was never charged with anything. Chad’s epi pen was only across the room in his dresser drawer, it wasn’t Grandma Jenny’s fault he had gotten so fat and lazy that he couldn’t get to it quick enough. It was a tragic mistake and an unfortunate coincidence that the one night she had her TV turned on and up, was the one night he would call out for help.
Lauren was notified but was unable to get home before his body was cremated. She made it for the services and Grandma Jenny stood by her side the whole time. That was just how Grandma Jenny was. Faithful to her family, loving them above all else. She wanted the very best for all her grandchildren, the very best, nothing less would be tolerated.