GRAMMA
By Larry Flewin

          

 

“Gramma? Gramma, it’s me, Fiona.”

“Fiona?”

“Yeah, you know, Adele’s oldest, that’s me.”

“You mean my brother’s wife, Adele? I didn’t know her very well.”  

“Listen, Gramma, I was just thinking about you, thought I’d call and say hi, you know.”  

“Okay. Um, hi. I really don’t remember any girl of Adele’s. Are you sure...”  

“Look, Gramma, it’s okay if you don’t remember me all that much. I mean I was away a lot. Going to boarding school and stuff. Wasn’t home very much, but they talked about you all the time.”

“Really? What did they say? Nice things, I hope. I mean, we didn’t get along all that well her and me, so we didn’t see much of them.”  

“Right. Which is why you didn’t see much of me either, but I was there, curly hair and all.”  

“Adele had curly hair, but she dyed it so often it was hard to tell.”

“Yeah I know, I helped her with that, you know, when I was home, which wasn’t very often.”  

“Oh dear, that must have been just awful for you.”  

“Yeah. It was kind of crummy but I managed, you know, kids are tough. Listen, um, the reason I’m calling is that I’m in a bit of a jam, and, um, well I was wondering if…you could, uh, help me out a little.”  

“Why, whatever do you mean, dear, what kind of jam?”  

“Oh, it’s nothing serious, but, well, yes it is, I don’t have a job right now and my landlord isn’t listening to reason. I told him I could pay him as soon as I got a job but he won’t listen, and here’s the thing, I’m getting tossed out Friday unless I can give him something, even a little bit, for the rent. You couldn’t help me out, could you, I mean even just a little bit you know, say a couple thousand? Please?”

“Well, I don’t know, I mean I hardly you know you.”

“Yeah I know, but you’re the only relative I know and I was kind of hoping . . . you know.”

“Yes I know, this is all a little embarrassing for you, and me being a complete stranger and all. Well, let me talk to my Walter, your uncle, about that. Just hold on a minute, dear.”

So, two grand, two thousand whole dollars came her way less than a day later, via wire transfer. Fiona couldn’t believe it, all she’d done was beg and plead for money and here it was in her hands. Magic. If there was an easier way to make a buck she couldn’t think of one.

Well, there was some work involved, but nothing she couldn’t handle over a late breakfast. A quick look through the obits, a little surfing on the Net, some smooth talk and that was it. Grandparents, nicest folks on the planet but just about the dumbest. They haven’t seen or heard from you for fifty years but the second you say hi, it’s an emergency, they’re all over it. There was just something about danger that tugged at their heartstrings and grabbed at their wallets.

That was Dave’s take on it. Given the chance he could talk the pants off a complete stranger, and have them in tears in less than five minutes. After that, guilt took over and money was no object.

They’d met at a bar where he’d tried to pick her up, and succeeding on that score, boastfully showed her another way to score. It involved a different type of pickup routine, one that also relied on a glib tongue and smooth opening line, but was infinitely more lucrative. Yeah, it’s a scam, he said, but why the hell not. I’m not getting tied down to some desk somewhere with some nerdy geek telling me what to do. This gets me what I want and it’s a helluva a lot more fun. Fiona took to it like a duck to water.

Together they perfected the grandchild in trouble routine. Fiona would call up cold, get a sympathetic if confused voice on the phone, and talk like mad. Gramma help me I’m in jail, Gramma I’m being evicted, or any one of a thousand other Gramma help me’s. All she had to do was BS her way through the opening monologue, pick up on some details from Gramma, and that was it. Once Gramma was semi convinced that Fiona was real, the cheque was in the mail.

And if Fiona wasn’t convincing enough, Dave would get on the phone. He would play the role of a nasty cop or a mean landlord, and Gramma would freak out. I mean what grandparent could sleep at night knowing her little darling was being hard done by. And to spare her precious any embarrassment, Gramma would promise not to tell anyone, all she wanted to know was where to send the money. 

“Definitely do not let them use the mail,” said Dave. “It’s too slow and unreliable, and it gives them time think it over. You need the money right now, so tell them it has to be a wire transfer. It’s fast, it’s easy to do, and pretty much anonymous. You get the money usually on the same day, and then it’s back to making cold calls, pizza and ribs. And don’t get greedy, I mean if you make a couple hundred calls and one or two pan out, you’re done for the day.” 

Things went well until Dave’s own mother got scammed. She dropped close to ten grand on some schmuck pretending to be Dave. Mom had been convinced that Dave was trying to refinance his mortgage and needed a little help. Mom obliged, and Dave blew a gasket when he found out. He took it personally and headed home to Mom as fast as he could pack. Fiona drove him to the airport.

As it turned out, Fiona didn’t need a cop or a landlord, just a little research and a really smooth Gramma help me. Whining and whimpering were her best talking points, along with a good ear and a good guess or two. It was all about trust and timing. Get Gramma to open up a little and Fiona had her. Most were very talkative and offered to help, but only a very few were ever convinced enough to make that in cash.

On rare occasions, you hit a gold mine. Those were the Holy Grail, the ones who were so trusting and so gullible that you could double dip, ask for the moon, and they would ask you where to send it. Fiona all but swallowed her tongue when she finally found herself on the phone with one. This one, Gramma and Walter.

Turns out this particular Gramma was the man in the family, as Walter didn’t have a lick of sense when it came to financial matters. I mean she really only asked him out of courtesy, but of course, dear, they would be happy to help a relative. What else can we do? Need a place to stay, we have a spare room?

“No, thank you,” gasped Fiona. “I’m good. Once I get out of this mess I’ll be okay, but thanks for offering.”

“Oh, no dear, thank you for calling” said Gramma excitedly. “We’re just so glad to hear from you, from anybody, really. Our family never did talk much. So listen, if you need anything else, anything at all, you be sure and call right away. We’ll be glad to help.”

“Sure, Gramma, sure thing, thanks again for everything. I really appreciate it.” And with that Fiona hung up and started doing her happy dance, phone still glued to her ear. She had done it, she had found the Holy Grail, and it was eating out of her hand! This Gramma was going to pay for the privilege, big time.

Several days passed before Fiona called her Holy Grail back. Time enough for her not to appear anxious but enough to supposedly get her life in order. Long enough for Gramma not to forget too much but not to remember all that much either. The balance was critical to keeping the storyline alive, and the money coming in.

“Oh hello Fiona, Walter, its Fiona, she’s calling back to say hello and… what’s that dear... oh and to say thank you for helping her out.” Fiona was nearly deaf as Gramma was shouting out the conversation to Walter. “What’s that dear, you need how much.... Walter, the girl’s in trouble again.... no, Adele’s girl.... Fiona… you know, the one with the curly hair… no, not Adele.... oh, never mind. Certainly dear, I think we can manage that. And where it is going? Same place as last time? Oh my, I seem to have lost that address. Can you please give it to me again? Right... right… got it, okay, we’ll take care of that today.”

Fiona took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, focused intently on the business at hand. The wire transfer, all five grand, shook slightly as did the hands that held it. Her first really big, ongoing, score and she still couldn’t believe it had been this easy. Holy mother of…

The transfer had gone through in one day, and the clerk inside the cashiers’ cage had seemed almost too happy to hand it over.

“Are you alright ma'am?” asked the clerk quietly, big blue eyes full of concern.

“Yes ... uh yes, yes I am,” mumbled Fiona. “I’m okay. Just been a busy day, that’s all.”

“I understand ma’am. Do you really want all this in cash, ma’am?”

“Uh, yeah, cash is good. Large bills are okay.”

“No can do, honey, we don’t hand out big amounts like this in cash. Gotta be a cheque.”

“Okay, yeah sure, whatever.”

“Safety, honey,” said the clerk, as she printed off the cheque. “You never know what’s going to walk through that door. I been doing this for twenty years and I still get the shakes when some of these guys come in. They look nice enough and they talk to you real sweet, but they still give me the creeps.”

Fiona smiled wanly. “Yeah, I know what you mean, you just can’t trust anybody these days.”

“Don’t worry about thing,” wheezed the clerk. “Just go down the street to the Cash Mart at the corner, they cash anything, especially if it’s from us. And don’t let them stick you for more than ten percent, they’re all crooks.”

And so they did, counting the money out on the counter in front of her, before scooping it all into a plain brown envelope and handing it to her. Easy peasy.

That had been a week ago. Today it was going to be ten grand. Ten Large. Ten big ones. Ten thousand bucks in cash and all she would have to do was smile sweetly and talk up Adele like she was the second coming.

That conversation hadn’t started when, out of the blue, Gramma called Fiona.

“Oh . . . um, listen, dear, since you are a relative of Adele’s maybe you’d like some of her things. She left a lot of stuff behind when she passed and I have no idea what to do with it all, or what it’s worth or anything.”

“Seriously?” asked Fiona, all but swallowing her tongue in surprise. “What kind of things?”

“Oh well, let’s see, some jewelry, clothes, knickknacks, books, things like that. She never did get along with anyone, so when she died we ended up with it. I really don’t know what to do with it, or what any of it’s worth, so we’d love for you to have it, if you’re interested, that is.”

“Oh yes, absolutely I’m interested.”

“Well, okay then.”

Holy crap, this is beyond gold, she thought. These two dummies really think I’m Fiona and they’re going to give me Adele’s estate? NO, whoa, slow down girl this can’t be real, this just can’t be. No one’s that dumb. No one. She sighed heavily, trying to calm her jangling nerves. Play this cool, she said to herself, play this carefully.

Remember what Dave said when we first started doing this. Be the good fisherman, jerk the hook a little and see if they bite. If they do reel them in slowly, jerk it a little, and if they keep biting, go for it. If they don’t, drop them and recast. There’s lots of fish out there so don’t waste your time on a loser.

The meet was set for a trailer park just north of town. Apparently Gramma and Walter were doing the tour as they called it, driving across America in a motor home, looking up family, seeing the sights, and just generally enjoying life. Actually meeting someone she was scamming wasn’t something that Dave had mentioned, even in passing. Fiona wasn’t sure if this was a bad idea or not but the lure of a big score overrode her instincts.

“You know how family is,” said Gramma, smiling sweetly. “All fine and dandy to call or visit but the very second something like this happens, suddenly everybody’s too busy or too poor or really didn’t like her all that much. So, here we are, traveling around the country with the poor woman’s life in the back there, and no one to help us. Until you came along.”

“Well, I really wasn’t quite sure if I should until I spoke to you on the phone,” said Fiona. “I mean it was really, really, nice of you to send me all that money, it really got me out a jam. So, you convinced me it’s the right thing to do and here I am.”

“Oh, think nothing of it my dear, that’s what family is all about, helping each other in time of need. It’s what she would have wanted, poor dear, we’re just so glad that it’s you. Isn’t that right Walter?”

“Darn rights,” mumbled Walter, his mouth full of teacake. “Damn woman was a pain in the ass, if you ask me, always wanting to rescue this or save that. Had more cats than Moses had wives, and always getting more. Well, she’s gone now, so that’s that.”

“Poor dear,” murmured Gramma, staring at Fiona intently. She moved to sit beside Fiona and brush the hair out her eyes. “She’s not feeling all that well, are you my dear? Walter, maybe you should open a window or two, might make her a little more comfortable. It won’t be long now.”

As charming as the conversation was, Fiona really wasn’t feeling all that well. Maybe the trailer was too stuffy, maybe she hadn’t had enough sleep, maybe it was the tea but for whatever reason she felt herself slowly getting weaker. It was an odd sensation, but she couldn’t focus enough to figure out what was going on.

She lay back on the couch, sliding deeper and deeper into some sort of calm.  Her brain was fully awake but her eyes were slowly losing their focus. She watched as Walter brushed cake crumbs off his shirt, reached over and grabbed her purse. He dumped it out onto the coffee table and started pawing through her things. Hey, those are my things, Fiona screamed, but she could no longer make her body do or say anything.

“Found ’em,” crowed Walter, jangling Fiona’s car keys. “Looks like we got her house keys too, and maybe a safe deposit box key. You sure they’re going to let us in it?”

“Trust me,” said Gramma quietly. “We’re seniors, remember, we can get anything we want. Just do like I tell ya, a little Alzheimer’s goes a long way. And don’t stop to look it over like you did last time, I don’t care if it’s a Mantle rookie card, just get everything and go. We almost got caught. Scared the crap out of me.”

“Don’t worry,” wheezed Walter, “I’ll give ’em my best Rain Man impression. That always gets their attention, ’specially the cute ones. The shorter the skirt the smaller the brain I always say.”  

“Just so long as you keep your mind on the job and not her ass.”

“No problem.”

“Feeling a little off, dear?” whispered Gramma, gently sliding Fiona’s head off of her lap and onto the couch. “Don’t worry, it’ll pass soon enough.” Fiona’s eyes were wide open, her brain still able to comprehend, but her body unable to move.

“Sweet dreams my dear,” murmured Gramma. “Oh don’t worry, you’ll wake up soon enough. I gave you just enough to knock you out for a day or so. Long enough for us to take what we want. Everything. You’ll have a helluva headache when you do wake up and a long hike home, but you’ll live. And while you’re lying there why don’t you think about what you’ve been doing. Maybe then you’ll understand what it’s like to steal the dreams of others, just like we’re stealing yours.”




Larry Flewin lives and writes in Winnipeg, Canada. His passion for writing covers the gamut from corporate newsletters and manuals to children’s books, e-zine mystery fiction, and western short fiction. He has several online publishing credits including winning a song writing contest. Larry is passionate about his craft, and is never far from a pen; plots are where you find them. He is active in his community, a member of the Manitoba Writers Guild, and is currently completing his second novel.

Copyright 2017 Larry Flewin. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!
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