I am cranky. I look like warmed-over death. I haven’t slept because Granny Grump called in the wee hours of the morning, disturbing my beauty rest (which I need.) But that’s okay because Granny knows she can get by with this.
Granny lives all by herself over the mountain and is very old. I do not know her exact age, somewhere in those magical years between 72 and 100. This is when younger folks start holding onto your elbow when you walk and are obligated to endure any type of eccentric behavior you dish out.
Alas, Granny isn’t your run-of-the-mill sweet old lady. She doesn’t have a compulsive need to save peanut butter jars or Merita bread bags. She doesn’t keep candy hidden in her pocketbook for the children at church. No, this Granny trips people with her cane. She refers to everyone as sumabitch and would be more likely to hide mousetraps in her handbag to teach those (and I quote) “ankle-biting, purse-prowling pew-pissers” a lesson.
As result of her hateful behavior, most of her friends and family avoid her telephone calls — or have filed restraining orders. So, she calls me. And, in accordance with the unwritten Southern laws about Respecting Your Elders, I listen.
And this morning at 3:15 AM, the cell phone rang. I stifled the noise before it could rouse the husband or kids and said very respectfully, “Old Woman, do you know what time it is?”
“Lawd honey, you ain’t never goin’ believe this!” Granny boomed, “They’s a prowler and now they trying to get inside the house!”
“WHAT!?” The fuzziness of sleep did not linger. I hit the floor so fast that my head got a bit swimmy.
“Yes, sireee, chile, I was just a sittin here listening and… Wait… I think I hear the (mumble)”
I was frantic. “Granny? Granny! Are you there? You better answer me RIGHT NOW!”
“Shut up dammit! I am trying to hear!” She hissed, “Oh lord, he’s a’coming through the window! I swear there ain’t no tellin’ the “thangs” people will do anymore. Oh lawdhavmercy! I’m all tore up.”
At this point, I’m dressed – somewhat. I have a flip-flop on one foot and a loafer on the other. My heart is pounding. I’m wearing pants that might’ve been my husband’s. I’ve grabbed a t-ball bat and a dull carving knife from the kitchen – and I on my way out the door. I figured I’d develop a Mission Impossible-type plan on the ride over the mountain – something that involved poking a crazed maniac crackhead in the eye and wrasslin’ him to the ground, all while holding up pants that aren’t mine.
Backing out of the driveway, I bark into the phone, “Granny, I want you to hang up and call 911. Stay on the phone with the operator until somebody gets there.”
Granny seemed puzzled, “I guess I could call them but I don’t see how that will help.”
Good Lord, she’d gone completely senile. “Granny, hang up and call the law RIGHT NOW. If someone comes in the window before I get there, you hit them with your cane.”
“Hell-o-sadie, the house is clear over in Morristown. I don’t “thank” any prowler is goin’ walk their ass over the mountain, but if you think they might come here…“
“The house in – what? Are you… I thought… Granny, what are you talking about?”
“The house somebody is breakin’ into over in Morristown. Are you hearin’ anything I say? Wait. I… let me turn up my scanner. I think the law is there. Yes, they there now. Whew! I swear that frightened the wits out of me.”
I glanced down at my speedometer and slowed. The last thing I needed was to be pulled over by one of Hawkins County’s finest: in my mismatched shoes, hair sticking out all over my head, wearing someone else’s pants with a dull knife in hand. They’d never believe my story. They’d send me off for a 72-hour observation period, at which time I’d have to haul Granny into court as a living breathing proof or at least evidence of why I’m justifiably crazy. She’d probably end up calling the Hawkins County General Session Court Judge Dave Brand, a dress-wearing commie sumabitch: getting us both tossed in the hoosegow indefinitely. And it’d be all my fault.
What was I thinkin’ when I’d given Granny Grump the Uniden Bearcat scanner? I’d gotten it when my baby sister worked as a county police officer. She moved on. I had no use for it and thought Granny might be entertained. And she is. The scanner is on 24-hours a day. Granny has gotten familiar with officers and considers them her friends. She follows their adventures the way other old ladies might follow soap opera characters. But for me, putting a police scanner within earshot of a batty old woman wasn’t the best idea since it set-off a series of early AM phone calls:
2AM: “Do you know that officer what pulled them people over jus’ now? He seems real nice. I thought you might know him. If you do, you oughta tell him we `spect that sumabitch Herbert is a wife-beater.”
3:10AM: “What is a Signal 9? Is that a gun? I think they `bout to shoot somebody!”
1:45AM: “What is a 10-49? Does that mean somebody got murdered, cause that’s what it sounds like. Sure as day, they said they had a 10-49 down by that ol’ Sumabitch Herbert’s house! I’ll bet you all the world he shot his wife, that ol’ sumabitch. I knew this would happen. You know what, I’m just going to call and ask them. You got the phone number of the law?”
So, I lied: “No Granny, it’s not a murder. Don’t you tell anyone this but the secret code for Murder is BR-549. Uh-huh, just like on Hee-Haw. Well, that way nobody will suspect what’s going on. And the code for gunfire is a uh… Miner-49er but you can’t tell anyone you know that. Because it’s interdepartmental regulatory confidentiality stuff.”
Okay, okay! I know you should never lie to old people, but what else can I do? I cannot block her telephone number. She might need to call for real help one of these days. I can’t take the scanner back as that would make me a real sumabitch. I could tamper with her frequencies, leaving her only mall and WSCC campus security and maybe the cab company. Then, she could then call in the wee hours of the morning to say:
“You know that cab company just got called to pick up a drunk over by that sumabitch Herbert’s house. I’ll bet you anything its old Herbert himself. Let’s call and report him. Do you have the telephone number of the law?”