The thing was cold, black, and heavy. Even though I was just a kid, maybe nine or ten, I knew a gun when I saw it. I’d been jumping on Grandma Nellie’s bed. The pillow had fallen on the floor. The gun had been under the pillow.
I put everything back the way I found it and hurried down the Victorian staircase with the steps curving at the bottom into a spiral, my younger sister behind me. The widest part of the steps was near the wall with the railing. The other wall had the steps disappearing into the spiral. I had big feet, even then, so I walked close to the railing wall.
We went into the old-fashioned kitchen with the speckled linoleum floor, the kind where you couldn’t find anything you dropped, and saw my grandma at the yellow enamel stove with the big legs, stirring our lunch (under the stove made a great hiding place during hide and seek). I wanted to tell her about the gun, but she turned to me with her sweet grandma face, and I couldn’t mention it. How could such a nice religious lady own such a cold and scary thing?
I loved my grandma’s house with the wavy-glass picture window that faced the street and the front door that wasn’t in the front at all, but rather on the side of the house that opened to the wrap-around porch.
I busied myself with my favorite play things. Under the staircase, there was a curtained area that contained hats, gloves, jewelry, and high-heeled shoes — her church clothes. She let us try on anything we wanted, as long as we were careful. My younger sis and I stomped around in the shoes and accessories, having a blast.
My younger sister hadn’t seen the gun. I had hurried her out of the bedroom, away from the pillow and the pistol and my new perspective of my gray-haired granny.
The two of us ate our hot lunch at Grandma’s chrome table with the plastic seat cushions, took off our jewelry and shoes, put the hats back, and went outside to play in the grass between the house and the garage along the alley. The screen door slammed behind us.
What was I going to do about the gun? I still couldn’t bring myself to mention it to the churchiest lady I knew. Instead I saved it for when we got home the next day, after having slept in the spare room with the innocent pillows, away from the grandma pillow hiding the pistol.
My mom sucked in air when I told her, and then she booted me out of the kitchen while she made a phone call. Did she call our dad since it was his mother with the gun? Or did she call her mother-in-law directly? I will never know, but we were sat down that evening by our dad and mom and told that Grandma had been mugged and her purse had been stolen in the street in front of her house.
And that Grandma didn’t live in the best neighborhood.
And that Grandma now kept her gun locked up during the daytime.
And that we were never to speak of the gun again.
A year or two later, Grandma Nellie moved to a much smaller house on a busy street. Gone were the claw-foot bathtub and the wrap-around porch. Gone were the tall Victorian windows that reached lower than the beds. Gone was the spiral at the bottom of the staircase and the hidden closet under the stairs.
The new house was brown and boring, and the kitchen was a sliver of the old one with a modern stove. But Grandma still cooked her homemade chicken with homemade noodles. She still had us over once a month for Sunday dinner, whether we went to church or not.
I don’t know what happened to the pistol, since no one ever spoke of it again.
Couldda Wouldda Didda
I did it. I ratted out my grandma. It was all I knew how to do.