Granddaughter Moves In

by Ann Pelletier-Topping

The grandma’s purple leg is full of flesh-
eating-maggot holes. Each morning she hammers
her hip into gear, limps past the old gas
furnace and makes breakfast. After the dishes
are tidied away, she sits on her chair
and chains her leg to it. All day long she looks

out the window while her cuttings in old jars look
vibrant and grow roots, on the sill. The purple flesh
she got by falling off a ladder, not off a chair,
as some rumoured, broke her hip as she hammered
on a curtain pole while good-for-nothing Grandad ate dishes
of peanuts in the corner tavern and gassed

about imagined war wounds instead of buying gas
as promised. But the grandfather never looks
unshaven and though he won’t help with the dishes,
he’ll bounce the grandchild on his knees, making the flesh
around his neck wobble a bit. By teatime he’s hammered
on London Dry and falls asleep on a chair,

bless him. He doesn’t like being tied to his chair
and usually disappears off behind the town’s gas
works for most of the week, before the grandma hammers
out his tedious list of chores. What he looks
for, rumour has it, are the sinful pleasures of the flesh,
but who could blame him with a wife who dishes

out abuse at him, worse than the priest dishes
out his penance. The granddaughter, on her plastic chair,
undresses her doll and doodles on its pink flesh,
You bad baby, you only good for the gas
chamber. She throws it behind the furnace and looks
at the grandmother. Picking up her doll, she hammers

its head on the floor. You hurt? Won’t hammer
you no more. She puts pretend dishes
on the table for tea, feeds her baby. Look,
Grandad coming up the stairs. He sits on the chair
to take off his rubber galoshes. Where’s the gas!
says the grandmother, wanting her pound of flesh.

You useless piece of flesh, she lays into him like a hammer
then the gas runs out with a pshhh. Cakes? says the child, dishing
them out, him on the chair, her giving him the look.