That is until the front door of MacConall’s shack slammed open, and a hunched figure stood silhouetted in the entrance, I half expected the crack and flash of lightning to follow in its wake; weather phenomenon aside, I quickly recognised the stranger. Apparently Marcy did too, judging by her helping me to my feet in a flash. With much the same alacrity she said, to no one in particular, ‘I’LLJUS’PUTTHEKETTLEON!’ and then tried her hardest to become one with the kitchen corner she now inhabited, looking as busy as possible.
Thanks for backing me up sweetheart.
Not that I could necessarily blame her; the silhouetted figure was immediately recognisable. My grandmother may be approaching 90, be 5 foot nothing and nearly blind in one eye, but she religiously upheld the stereotype of the scary Scottish grandmother. Rumour has it she nearly broke one of my uncle’s hands with a single fell swoop of a wooden spoon when she caught him trying to knick some food before it was served.
“G-Granny! What can I help you with?”
“Don’ you “Granny” me you little shite, where the blazes have you been?! You’re the last damn relation o’ mine not to vote on the stupid title dispute, damnit. I wanted to serve dinner an hour ago! An’ what do I find? You playing patty-cake with the damn help!”
Well, it’s nice to see Granny’s tongue hasn’t dulled with age.
“Speakin’ of! What’re you doin with that damn kettle!? Jesus H Christ girlie, how long does it take to boil a bloody kettle?”
If Marcy thought herself free of my Grandmother’s leery gaze she apparently had another thing coming, she couldn’t hide her squeak, her downcast ears or low tail.
“I-It won’t be t’long now, ma’am!”
“Damnit Marcy, how many times must you be told? Y’can call me Granny just like everyone else in th’family, I looked after you f’long enough haven’t I?”
Huh, not that I should be too surprised, but Granny can apparently get away with calling her Marcy, and judging by how much her tone softened by the end of that my grandmother has quite the soft spot for the girl. Memories of a long string of saved and carefully nursed wild animals resurfaced. Does Granny like her because they both have a soft spot for “wee critters”, or because Marcy is a wee critter herself? Let’s find out.
“Haha, Granny, you’ve always had a soft spot for cute and fluffy things like Marcy, eh?”
Even as the wolf-girl took the kettle off the heat and poured the water into the teapot her hackles rose, but she didn’t utter a complaint. I wonder if she took more offence at being called cute and fluffy or “Marcy” again. The question remained unpondered after a box of shotgun shells exploded against my forehead, showering 12 gauge buckshot shells around the kitchen table.
“Oi! Don’t be a smartarse you little shite; right now sweet, young Marcy here’s miles ahead of you when it comes to things I like. Now shut up and pick up all those shells. Marcy! What’re you doin’ leaving shotgun shells lying around? You should know better than that.”
“Sorry Granny. Here’s your tea.”
“Ah, you’re a good girl aren’t you dearie? Let’s ‘ave a cuppatea and a wee chat whilst my useless grandson picks up those shells; we can keep everyone else waiting for a little while longer, I don’t care s’much if it’s me people’re waiting after. It’s a privelege of age, y’ken?”
I really do love my grandmother, she may seem gruff but throughout my life, whenever my grandfather was there to look after me, Granny was right beside him, making sure everything ran smoothly and keeping the extended family more or less in line. It was a testament to her force of will and character that she could stay this strong, even so soon after her loving husband’s passing. If I honestly thought about it, whenever I saw her over the last few days she’s been the rock of the family, as she always has been; even as some of the relations have brought home monstergirl brides, Granny’s cowed them into doing her bidding, which is an impressive feat for a nigh-90 year old human woman. Yet as I stand here, putting shotgun shells back into their box, I can’t help but see her as an old, increasingly decrepit, widow; she looks so very small and tired, now sitting at the table, sipping on her tea, with MacConall’s furry hand supporting one of her shoulders, perhaps she just wanted an excuse for a break.
“Look dearie, I’m not so damn old I need help sitting upright!”
Maybe she’ll be all right after all.
“So, Granny, do you have any news for me in regards to the voting? I don’t want to rock the boat with my vote, I’m sure you know full well how much I care for this charade.”
“Well care you damn well should! This tradition’s been in your blood since our family first settled this land time untold ago!”
“I do care, honestly I do, but this byzantine bullshit that’s been going on is just too much, why is it being so difficult this time around? Wasn’t it a lot easier when Grandda’ took the chieftainship?”
“Well, that’s because he was basically unopposed, everyone knew he’d be the best choice, and god rest his soul, he was. This time though? That damn uncle of yours is playing silly buggers. Your father’s a good man; he’s proved how good a head he has on his shoulders running the family’s interests down south o’the border. If it were up’ta me I’d give him the title and be done with the entire thing. Yet that damn son-in-law o’mine won’t listen to me, and will bribe who he needs to. Last I heard the vote’s split straight down the middle and because you’ve been hiding with your tail between your legs all day the vote’s down to you. If it wasn’t so close, no one would give a shite and you could stay here cuddling with Marcy, y’ain’t that lucky though.”
“Granny! We weren’t cuddlin’!”
“Hush Marcy, y’think I didn’t see how you looked at him from afar when you were jus’ a wee thing? Ah, there’s something that must be said about all that though, but that need wait. Boy! Y’seem to be glad to jus’ stand there an’ let poor Marcy do all the talkin’, so you should take your paragon of manliness’ arse down to the main hall, vote for your father and hurry back here, d’ya understand me boy?! Your grandfather’s memory, god rest his soul, won’t be enough to save y’hide if you vote for that damn uncle of yours!”
I took that as my cue to leave, stole Marcy’s teacup, drained it before she had a chance to sip it and bolted out the door before either of the women could continue to scold my ears off. The cold Scottish night nearly knocked the wind out of me as effectively as Marcy had earlier. Shoving my hands deep in my armpits for a measure of warmth, I hurried over to the warm glow of the manor, walking around the collection of Landcruisers and Rangerovers before finally reaching the front entrance; as soon as I opened the heavy wooden door I was met with the stuffy warmth of too many people packed in too old a building and each and every one of those soul’s voices were raised in an argument, quickly turning bitter. Coincidence favoured me for once and it was mum who first saw me; quickly grabbing me by the arm and leading me towards the main hall, attempting to wave away other family members whilst asking me the same questions they were. I just answered by way of shrug. Mum’s expression told me that that wasn’t a good enough explanation but it’d have to wait for later. If I was lucky she’d forget. She wouldn’t. My entrance in to the great hall was met with a mixture of exasperated and relieved sighs; an uncle I quite like, drunk as per usual, begged me to deliver him from the interminable boredom and bullshit. I’ll save you uncle!
Yet another uncle separated my father from his political opponent, the husband of an aunt, (Granny and Grandda’ apparently had a lot of time on their hands and not much else to do with it) raised up on the platform at the head of the main hall they could look down upon the increasingly rowdy and well soaked family reunion, arrayed on the tables running parallel up the length of the hall. From his vantage point the uncle playing at being the master of ceremonies asked me to vote, with a surprising lack of ceremony; I guess he had had enough just like everyone else in the room.
“I’ll be brief, and this may well shock you, but I’ll be voting right now for my f-“
I didn’t get the chance to finish, not with my “uncle-in-law”(?) jumping to his feet with a grand flourish and a booming voice, declaring to all and sundry:
“Boy! Why be so hasty? You’ve only just arrived, how about we all go over our arguments one more time and see if you can’t make a… well informed decision!”
The threat of delaying the result for even a second longer just about caused a civil war amongst the people gathered in the hall, even some of the family members he had bribed were beginning to turn against him, judging by the amount of jeers, glasses and mugs thrown at him from both sides of the room.
“Nah, I’m good. I vote for dad.”
The room exploded. There wasn’t any other way to describe the flurry of motion and wall of sound that followed my words. A table was flipped, the apparently defeated uncle-in-law kicked his chair from the dais, smacked away anyone trying to console him and marched off in a sulk, whilst my father simply collapsed wearily, shook the hands shoved at him and downed the drinks given to him, whilst trying not to confuse the two amongst the general row. Liquor flowed even more freely and the mood went from sour and dangerous to relieved and overjoyed in the space of a sentence, my drunk of an uncle grabbed me around the shoulders and openly sobbed into my neck, I could only pat him on the back with a grin as family members who wouldn’t usually look at me twice slapped me on the back and forced ale and whisky on me as well. It’s nice to be popular, even if it’s only fleeting. Some of the braver men had even raided the kitchen, taking it upon themselves to serve Granny’s dinner, probably much to their own detriment later, even if they lost a few of their number to their wives, monstrous or otherwise. In the general ruction that followed, as everyone tried to secure what seating, liquor and pork crackling remained before a vengeful Granny could reappear and start laying into everyone with her dreaded spoon, I slipped away once again and started off back to Marcy’s cottage. Though not before quickly apologising to mum and congratulating dad, getting a sincere smile through his rather exhausted facade.