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Timmy was bad again yesterday. Mrs. Manella couldn’t bear to focus on her 5th period Spanish class. More times than she could remember, in her elderly age, Mrs. Manella had told her grandson to finish his plate without question. He always devoured his vegetables and starches, but nearly every night he would slacken on the roast beef, hamburger or pork, chewing on it until the tasteless juices were gone, and what dry grain was left in the meat would only make him gag. For throwing up, Mrs. Manella would make him sleep on a floor covered in grits. For not finishing, she would force him to chew on pure cinnamon. Depending on what felt worse—his skin or his lungs, he would choose his punishment wisely.
Her students worked silently, for in the years of Mrs. Manella’s practice at home, she had begun to work her black magic in the classroom as well. Not even a month before, the large, fat teacher had “slipped” and landed a sharpened No. 2 pencil in between the second and third metacarpals of a seated student. He has not turned in a late paper since. Skillfully and craftily, she dodged attention from angry parents and the school board. Why! It hasn’t even been two years since I lost my son and daughter-in-law. And my husband is still being treated for a metastasized tumor in St. Mary’s Hospital. Others felt sympathetic; it could only be expected that an elderly woman in that much stress would lose her footing every once in a while.
“If it weren’t for my loving grandson, Timmy, here to keep me company, I don’t know what either of us would do,” she had once said to a co-worker. “A blessing God has given us.”
A young man cleared his throat three rows from the front. Mrs. Manella glanced away from her bright computer screen full of failing grades to stare down the young adult who dared disturb her silence. Met by her eyes were two glazing whites full of fear. As if in victory, the teacher looked back to her glowing monitor. Someday she would need to address the terrible grades her students were receiving.
But today, the shrew only looked forward to the sight of her small grandson coughing and choking on the deadly sweet brown powder. How his eyes would well up and pump dry tears.
Like a cold warning, wind gusted in from the singular, large open window, and the plump woman was again forced to leave her coveted laptop. In the two seconds that Mrs. Manella raised her arms to grasp the top edge of the window pane, she felt a strong push from behind. First, she felt her lower half make contact with the lower wall, but that wasn’t enough to stop her from falling out. Next, she was immersed in the cool Autumn air, flipping forward as gravity stole her body downwards. Just before she made contact with a leafless maple, she shut her eyes and began to shriek.
Somewhere around four days later, Mars. Manella opened her eyes to see a familiar place—white walls and light blue floor tiles with florescent lights. This was the hospital where her husband had suffered from cancer, and eventually passed a way. Good ol’ St. Mary’s. Only this time, the wife was the one trapped in a hospital bed. As if in response to a noise, she threw her head to the right, and met the burning, light blue eyes of a child.
“Hi grandma,” the blonde haired boy said with what sounded like a mix of confidence and urgency.
“—You fell out of your window at school. The doctor said I could be here when you woke up again.”
These words crashed around between Mrs. Manella’s ears; with more honesty or certainty she had ever had, the old woman could have sworn she was pushed.
“Your students saw it happen. Don’t you remember that one time you stabbed someone with a pencil when you tripped?” he asked innocently, somehow. “It was like that again. You just fell.”
“But I…” the beginnings of an argument quickly faded into something more pleading. “Timmy, what do you mean awake again?”
“The doctors told me. You were awake but you weren’t yourself yet, really. You ate too…” A moment of silence erupted between the two of them, then almost serenely, Timmy murmured “Don’t worry; I’ll take care of you now.” He glanced over at her unfinished tray of hospital food the looked straight back to his grandmother.
“So when you want your cinnamon?”