Every year I get two’s and sometimes three’s of requests to bring back a particular character from a past story and this year is no different. If you would like to read the original story from which this character originated, you can find it here. Enjoy.
Most September evenings, when the heat of the day had been swept aside by the cool breeze rolling in from the mountains and more often than not the Cubs had thrown away a lead in last few innings, I would often meander out to my third floor balcony to watch the world from above. It was on one such night that my imaginary walls of safety were demolished, exposing me to the true danger of the world in which we live. But more importantly, it was the night I had the best snickerdoodle I have ever tasted.
Thinking back, I cannot remember a single detail that would have hinted that the night ahead of me should be any different from the 9,524 nights that had passed before it. Shortly after the last tendrils of sunlight released their grip on the city, an Eastern wind announced its arrival through the branches of a large birch that scraped against the side of my apartment. My sliding glass door shifted and knocked against its track as if to confirm the wind’s entrance into the city. With Chicago leading by four runs, a tiny flame of hope danced wildly inside me as if the breeze outside my windows had a secret passageway to my heart. Over the next hour I would witness the inevitable collapse of my team in 52 inches of glorious color and pain.
With the game over and the last bit of summer heat extinguished, I slunk out to the patio and assumed my position along the low wooden fence that protected me from a thirty-foot plunge into inadequately watered shrubs. I spent a majority of my time there watching the endless variety of people coming and going from the strip mall of antique shops and craft stores to the west. On busy nights adventurous shoppers would use the ally directly in front of my apartment to cut through to the boutiques that were tucked away in the shopping plaza one street over.
It was her shuffle that first caught my eye. Although it was not uncommon for older women to frequent the craft store, I cannot remember ever seeing one brave the ally before that night. She moved with a joyful waddle, as if she were walking through a field of flowers on the way to see her grandchildren. Her silver hair reflected the light from the single lamppost that shown down upon her. Genetics had gifted her with certain assets that I imagine made her very popular at one time, but now under the guidance of gravity seemed to only add extra baggage to carry in addition to the small grey purse that swung from the elbow nook of her left arm.
A gaggle of laughs caught my attention and I turned to see a group of four young guys walking through the ally from the opposite direction. Two of them waddled just like the old lady as they struggled to walk with their pants slung below their butts. More than their clothing, age, or race, the most recognizable feature of the group was the air of cockiness that was almost too large to fit in such a narrow walkway.
The silver haired adventurer was either too old to hear the approaching teenagers or had decided that her best hope of living to see triple digits was to just pretend that they did not exist. My heart began to beat erratically, too nervous to keep a steady cadence, as the gap between them narrowed. Laughter faded and the silence that hovered over the ally left me gripping the rail in front of me in hope, fear, and thirteen or so other emotions.
No cars raced along the street to the East and the crickets had not yet begun their nightly symphony. The stillness was uncomfortable. It seemed as if the whole city held its breath in anticipation. In the lull, a single hushed phrase reached my perch that otherwise would have been impossible for me to hear.
“Why don’t you hand over the bag lady and keep walkin’.”
With a quickness that my high school geometry teacher would not believe me capable of, I calculated how long it would take the boys to finish their robbery and subtracted how long it would take me to reach the ally. Assuming that the laws of physics would not be bending to my will sometime in the next few minutes, there was nothing I could do to help her.
I realize that what I am about to describe will not be believed by most of you. You will say that it was dark in that ally, and it was. You would remind me that I was distraught after another heart-breaking loss from my team and you would be correct there too. But I have no doubt about what I saw. And there were the cookies.
The boys had surrounded the old lady in a loose circle, who had finally acknowledged their existence by stopping and looking up at the one who spoke to her. He towered over her by at least a foot and even from my vantage point I could tell he was mostly muscle. Because she had not yet passed the point of the ally that my patio overlooked I could still see most of her face. When the big gorilla reached out to take her purse I swear she smiled.
An instant later a crack, like the sound of a whip, split the air. The boy, who I assume was the leader, took a step back and clutched the side of his face with both hands. The other three boys were immediately captured by fits of laughter. One even fell to his knees and held his stomach as his laugh shook him like an earthquake. There in the middle of the ally, standing as calmly as a turkey in January, was the grandma holding a spatula in her hand. When she spoke she made no attempt to hide her voice, so I could hear her each word as she chastened the young man.
“Where are your manners? Didn’t anyone ever teach you to respect your elders?”
This sent another wave another wave of chuckles through the other three boys. The shock of the past 10 seconds slowly faded and gave way to anger.
Having yelled at his friends, muscle boy turned his attention back to the grandma who had crossed her arms in a posture of you-should-be-ashamed-of-yourself-ness.
“That was a stupid move. There’s four of us and you’re gonna need a lot more than a stupid plastic cooking thing to get out of this ally with that purse.”
The Silver Spatula of Justice did not respond and for what seemed like an eternity no one moved. Patience, though, is not a young man’s game and when the growing silence became sufficiently uncomfortable the leader spoke again.
“D, grab her.”
One of the teens behind the old lady moved toward her with a disregard for danger that only youth could provide. I was about to shout out, but the words stuck in my throat as I watched the impossible unfold.
In one fluid motion the grandma whirled around, grabbed the boy’s wrist, twisted him around and clamped her other hand on his ear causing him to squeal in pain. Shock froze two of the remaining three boys, but the leader had quickly and painfully learned not to underestimate this woman and took the opportunity to rush her while her back was turned. Another crack split the night air as a form miraculously emerged from the shadows. The boy fell on his side clutching the opposite side of his face from before and yelled, “Owwwwwww!”
“I am quite sure that this was not what the good Lord was referring to when He said to turn the other cheek.”
Still in disbelief I watched the original grandma turn, with the boy still firmly in her grasp, to look at the new grandma who had appeared out of nowhere, also holding a spatula. Her bluish-grey hair was pulled back in a bun and held in place with two knitting needles.
“Dagnabbit Rose! I can handle these twerps myself!”
Rose thrust her hands on her hips and peered over the top of her horn-rimmed glasses at the woman holding a boy a fraction of her age as easily as grandchild who had misbehaved.
“Well… I don’t see why you should get to have all the fun Betty.”
In the middle of this exchange one of the thugs turned and ran away without a word. The other boy still standing appeared to be frozen with fear or disbelief. I would not at all be surprised to find that he had urinated himself. Desperate to salvage his wounded pride, the leader pulled himself up to his feet with a bit of a wobble.
“You’re going to pay for that.”
He reached down and when his hand came back up I could see the glint of a knife blade. Rose looked at Betty asking her a silent question.
“Oh! Alright! You can have him.”
Rose dropped her spatula into the handbag she had slung over her left shoulder and carefully slid out one of the needles that held her hair up with her right hand.
Apparently this hooligan had never encountered people who were not intimidated by his size and threats. The shock of his sudden lack of effectiveness must have caused him some confusion. He looked around as if he would find hidden cameras and a host with slicked back hair ready to pop out and share a laugh at how the situation had unfolded. Seeing only garbage cans, the back of a building, and the fence that marked the edge of my apartment complex he returned his attention to senior citizen who met his glare with cool anticipation.
“Can we hurry this up sonny? I don’t want to miss the start of Matlock.”
He stepped forward and slashed at Rose, but by the time the knife got to its target there was nothing there but air. Rose stepped aside smoothly and began instructing him on his technique.
“Oh dear. That was atrocious. You are leaving your center open and your wind-up telegraphed your strike. Even my grandma could evade that!”
His next strike was much quicker, but still no match for the granny ninja. Again she taught as he tried to impale her.
“A little better, but you do not need all of that force. Let the knife do the work for you, dear. Quick is better than strong. And you are still leaving your middle open.”
With each attack and subsequent lesson he got closer and closer to making contact with his new-found teacher. She began using her needle to deflect his strikes and each time a loud “ting” rang out into the night.
Following a couple more unsuccessful attempts to murder an old lady, Betty reminded her companion of their time constraints.
“Don’t forget about Matlock Rose.”
“Oh yes. Thank you dear.”
Hoping he could take advantage of this distraction, the big brute thrust his knife out with the speed of a striking snake. What happened next was all a blur of motion, but a second later Rose had the assailants knife to his throat and her needle held between his ribs.
“See what I mean about your middle?”
She must have given him a look that told him an answer was expected because his voice trembled as he muttered, “Yes.”
“Tsk tsk tsk. Try again. Show a little respect.”
“Much better. You boys run along now.”
Betty released her captive and the three boys staggered away as if they had just woken from a very strange dream. As Rose and Betty disappeared into the shadows I could still hear them giggling like schoolgirls.
I wandered back into my apartment trying to wrap my mind around what I had just seen when I felt a chill climb my spine, sending shivers down my arms. Something was different. Looking around my living room I could not spot anything out of place. When I took a deep breath in an attempt to relax I suddenly realized what it was.
The scent of cinnamon emanated from somewhere within my home. I moved with the caution of a tightrope walker through my living room and into the kitchen. There, sitting on my countertop, was a plate of cookies that had not there before. A white note stood next to the treats folded in half. My eyes swept the room for intruders, but there was no one there but me.
I walked over and picked up the note.
It would be better for you to not share what you have seen tonight. Chances are no one would believe you anyway. Please enjoy these cookies. You’re looking a little thin.
My hand shook as I reached over and picked up a snickerdoodle. It was still warm. To this day, I have never tasted anything so delicious in my life.
I have spent many nights weighing what I should do with this information and every time I return to the same conclusion. You may not believe my story, but someday, somewhere out there, someone is bound to see the granny ninjas again. My only hope is that they have read my story when they do. If that is you, please, I beg you, do me one favor. Ask them if I can get that recipe!
Copyright © 2012 Adam Drake