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Grandma's Dentures (Unfinished Prose)

by Graeme Fielden

There is an old lady in my street that everyone knows as Grandma Gum. She is something of a hermit, and her house is tattered with unkempt gardens. Weeds and brambles, clawing their way over stone paths and decaying trellises. She is rarely seen by day but by night her silhouette dances in time with waltzes and foxtrots that play upon an old gramophone.
Grandma is bent double with osteoporosis. She creaks with arthritis and moans from bursitis. Her skin is thin, stretching deep lines made of laughter and from crying. She has knotted swollen joints, liver spots and dentures that hold loosely to her gums. They flip-flap up and down when she laughs. When she talks they slip gently, drawing lines of pooled saliva in her smile and making her slur. She has a smell of old porridge, sometimes mixed with urine, and she wears old taffeta, sometimes corduroy, surgical stockings, and orthopaedic sandals secured with Velcro that catch along the carpet making her zip when she walks.
Grandma has a dachshund named Albert who never leaves the house. He leaves presents on the carpet and barks intermittently at shadows during the night. She feeds him baked dinners brought to her by Betty who visits each night with dinner and the pills. They sit in the drawing room, sipping tea from bone china, looking through the same old photographs, week after week, until Betty has to leave. Leaving Grandma Gum alone.
Grandma likes to make lace doilies with crochet hooks. And she knits woolen coat hangers for church markets, which no one seems to buy. She sits in the front pew at Sunday service and complains when she can’t hear the priest, asking him to “speak up” unashamedly.
As children, we were afraid of Grandma Gum. She would talk to us as we passed beside her fence and we would run away quickly. Sometimes she’d catch us as we climbed her fence to retrieve our ball. She’d wave her stick at us, then phone our parents who made us knock on her door to apologize to her face…Knock, Knock…
She would stare at us through cataract eyes - shaking her head and holding her tongue forward in her mouth as though she was preparing for communion. We’d be invited in for cake, which mother would accept on all of our behalf then we’d follow her through dusted hallways into the shuttered drawing room where we’d hold our breath to stop the smell from reaching our throat, if it did it would make us cough.
Grandma Gum would sit in her chair and rock to and fro. Mother would make small talk about the business of the neighborhood, and we’d gaze around the room - transfixed by ancient plates and statues, lamps and lights and photographs that looked like ghostly images in dark brown and white. The men had large moustaches and they wore funny hats and coats with stripes and plaid. The women wore large dresses and serious faces and broaches and bonnets around their head. Albert slept before the fire and from time to time he’d wake and bark loudly before returning to sleep.
Grandma Gum would listen to Mothers news. Her ear would turn towards mother as she spoke and she would nod up and down as she listened. Occasionally her head would fall and we’d hear a long slow snore, which Mother would ignore and she’d continue speaking as if nothing had happened. If Grandma’s mouth fell open, we’d see her dentures slip to rest against her lower lip. Sometimes she’d pull them out whilst we were there and leave them swimming in a glass before Mother would help her into bed.

* * *

It was midday on a Sunday afternoon when Grandma Gum heard knocking at the door. She rose slowly from her seat, gathered her stick and limped along the hallway whose floorboards creaked gently as she passed.
The door did not open easily, four heavy locks begrudgingly unbolted before the door swung four inches and the safety chain caught its pendulous swing. The day was bright although you could not tell so from inside. The sun shone through clouds, which held loosely in the skies and washed backward and forwards like a tide. The street was quiet except for the playful sound of children in the background, and traffic in the distance. A white delivery van was parked on Grandma Gum’s unkempt lawn. A series of footprints led from it to the front door where a peculiar man stood waiting.
“Alfred Pedderson of the Pembrokeshire Antiquities Society,” said the man’s voice as he pushed a business card through the narrow gap.
Grandma Gum looked slowly past the chain.
“Can’t read that!” she croaked.
“Then allow me to introduce myself,” said Pedderson with a smile. “Alfred Pedderson at your service, Madam.”
“Service?” repeated Grandma with disdain.
Pedderson was a tall spindly man aged perhaps in his fifties. His hair was not so much in recession as clinically depressed. You see, the thinning occurred uniformly so that patches of cold pink skin appeared between tufts of wiry ginger hair from the peak of his high pitched forehead to the top of his of his turkey-like neck. He wore a suit, which in its day must have been the height of fashion. Alas this was not that day for it hung on his pot bellied form like an old lizard’s skin. His skin was pale and speckled with light ginger freckles. He stood with the gangling grace of a marionette, giving the impression that his spindly bones could fail him at any moment - allowing him to fall to the ground. His face wore deep lines yet his expression was cut with certainty and assurance. He had the smile of a vicar, the eyes of a weasel and the honeyed tongue of a salesman with well-rounded vowels and many practiced speeches.
“Madam, I ask for but a moment of your time.”
Grandma Gum began to push the door.
“It could be to your advantage,” said Pedderson as he lodged his foot firmly in the doorway, then edged his way gently through until he was face to face with Grandma Gum.
The air inside was stifling and for a moment Pedderson caught his breath and adjusted his eyes to the darkness. Grayness enveloped the room in the same way smoke fills the air, leaving its smell, taste and its smoky residue upon everything it touches. The crimson carpet seemed coated in gray dust. So too did the walnut hat stand, which held coats and umbrellas covered with the same gray hue. For a moment, sunlight escaped from behind a curtain, highlighting clouds of dust that exploded as Pedderson walked through the hallway, causing him to sneeze. Grandma Gum pulled the curtain to banish the light, then led him by the elbow into the front room.
“You sit there, Mr. Pickwick”
“I beg your pardon Madam?”
“I know you from Church, don’t I?”
“It’s Pedderson, Madam”
“So nice of you to visit me Mr. Pickwick…I don’t have many visitors.”
“Really?”
“You’ll stay for tea?” said Grandma Gum, then she rose from her chair and walked slowly through to the kitchen.

* * *

Pedderson’s Antiques and Collectable’s sat at the northern end of Kensington Church Street near Notting Hill Gate. It was a small cluttered shop filled with rare obscure items of considerable value. The type of shop through which one could spend an entire afternoon, exploring and sorting through the items (the ones that weren’t locked safely behind glass), or staring at them in pure amazement of their construction and quality. The shop was patronized by the crème de la creme of London society, and many a renowned hallway or dining room boasted a “Pedderson’s Relic”, as the shops wares soon became known.
The proprietor, Alfred Pedderson, was an oddity. However the quality of his wares and the reputation of his shop ensured his popularity within the ranks of society. The source of his antiques was a hot topic of conversation. He attended the same auctions and exhibitions as his competition, yet he uncovered items far rarer and more precious than anyone else.
It was rumored he had a special arrangement with Sotheby’s to purchase stock prior to auction. Or with the Bank of England, that were alleged to inform him whenever an aristocrat hit hard times and needed to sell an heirloom to make ends meet. The speculation and rumor only added to his reputation and to the success of his little shop. Pedderson had a secret that he shared with one other person in the world. They would take it to their grave for they owed whatever fame and fortune they had in the world to the little shop where Edwina Pedderson stood proudly in its front window, dusting the newly set display with extravagance whilst glancing secretly at her watch.
“To perfection,” she said, as the elongated shadows of Lord and Lady Hawthorne appeared at the corner. She busied herself as they walked toward the shop, pretending not to see them as they stood before her admiring the new display.
“Lord and Lady Hawthorne!” she exclaimed as she looked upward.
They waved enthusiastically, then pointed toward the doorway.
“Just a moment!” she said, as she climbed carefully over the desk, removed her apron then she paused to adjust her hair.
“Lord and Lady Hawthorne! Always such a pleasure!” exclaimed Mrs. Pedderson as she opened the door.
“It’s nice to see you too,” barked Lord Percy (who was almost completely deaf).
“Splendid day,” said Lady Prunella who glanced judiciously at Mrs. Pedderson’s plain frock.
“Smashing desk,” remarked Lord Percy. “New purchase?”
“Alfred found it last week. We’ve had it with the French polishers since Wednesday. It’s Louis the fourteenth.”
“Be a good girl and have Alfred give me a ring about it would you?” said Lord Percy. “And can you tell me whether he’s had any luck finding me the German clock we spoke of?”
“Hmmm, Hmmm…A word please Mrs. Pedderson,” said a voice from behind the Hawthorne’s who turned suddenly about.
“However can I help you Sargent Barnes?” asked Mrs. Pedderson.
“You’ll excuse me won’t you?” she said as she turned toward the Hawthorne’s who were busy looking over the desk.

* * *

Tic-Toc…tic-Toc…

With a quick sweeping glance Pedderson looked about the room, poking his long probing nose into nooks and crannies, shelves and drawers and cabinets, working feverishly about like a hound hunting for scent. His eyes darted madly from place to place following thin pointing fingers, which led him about like a divining rod. He sidestepped cabinets, chairs and tables, pressing feverishly onward through drawers and shelves. Holding up cutlery, china, lead crystal. Filing through sideboards of silver and pewter looking for hallmarks or signs of limited edition.
“Not a thing,” he said as he rolled his eyes in desperation.
Grandma Gum walked cautiously through the doorway, carrying a tray unsteadily toward the table.

Tic-Toc…tic-Toc…

Grandma settled comfortably into the old Chesterfield sofa. She leaned forward, pouring milk into the china cups before setting a strainer to the edge, then pouring the aromatic tea in an elaborate, high-arm motion.
“One lump or two?”
“Two thank you Madam”
Grandma leaned back into the sofa. She smiled warmly at Pedderson, yet she remained silent while Pedderson waited for her to talk. He waited and waited and waited yet she maintained her silence.
“I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced Mrs…”
He tried again.
“I said that I don’t believe I’ve yet been told your name…”
“Zzzzzzz…Zzzzzzz…”
From the corner of the eye Pedderson spotted a small brown object moving quickly across the room. He looked down and in an instant he felt the pinch of razor sharp teeth grasping at his ankle.
“Ahhhh!” he screamed.
“Grrrrrr,” Albert growled.
“So nice of you to visit me Mr Pickwick,” said Grandma Gum, whose tired eyes smiled at Albert, who maintained his pincer grip.
“He likes you,” she said with a laugh.
With on swift kicking motion Albert sailed across the room before settling in a corner where gnawed at a cushion, before snarling himself to sleep.

Gong…Gong…Gong…

Pedderson’s head stopped suddenly as something tweaked in his head when he heard it. His lips pursed and his eyes became little more than narrow slits as he concentrated on the sound. He shuffled forward in his seat, revealing mismatched socks & thin hairy ankles as he leaned forward to concentrate upon the sound…
There was something familiar about it. He knew it. He was onto something!

07/11/2003

Author's Note: to be continued...

Posted on 07/11/2003
Copyright © 2016 Graeme Fielden

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Max Bouillet on 07/11/03 at 01:31 PM

Great characters and really detailed imagery. The hint of mystery in the air draws the reader in quite nicely. Great job!

Posted by Quentin S Clingerman on 07/11/03 at 08:45 PM

Another great characterization, Pedderson, who could come right out of $#%@ens! And you have me hooked I want to know how this story ends!

Posted by Alex Smyth on 07/11/03 at 10:07 PM

mmmmmmmmmmmmm...delicious start.....waiting patiently...:o)

Posted by Jeanne Marie Hoffman on 07/14/03 at 12:13 PM

::holds up a bowl:: More please! (This comment both reflects my feelings and alludes to another comment on this story ;) )

Posted by Anne Engelen on 07/16/03 at 10:54 AM

i so much enjoyed this read! Lovely:)

Posted by Jeanne Marie Hoffman on 07/16/03 at 09:55 PM

Great! More to feed my appetite! But, I want to know what happens next!

Posted by Jean Mollett on 07/17/03 at 12:53 AM

Hi Graeme, Just finish reading your story. It's great, can't wait til the next one comes. Keep up the good work. It's cute too. Ya gotta laugh too. I can't believe one part of what Que said in his comment ($# & all the other stuff with it.) I'm surprised at him. Which is for cursing. Jean

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