Granny Gibson was a perfect granny. Neat and sweet, she had a face like a wrinkled angel and white candy-floss hair. She spoiled her twenty-seven grandchildren dreadfully and when her seven sons and seven daughters-in-law protested, she smiled and told them to mind their own business. Only she didn’t say it quite like that. For Granny Gibson had one terribly bad habit. She swore. She knew the most terrible, awful, ripe, rich swears that there had ever been invented in the world. And she made up a few of her own for good measure.
'Swears like a trooper,' said her seven sons.
'She'd make a drover blush,' said her seven daughters-in-law.
Felix, the youngest of her twenty-seven grandchildren, didn’t know what a trooper might be and he’d never met a drover, but he did know that his granny was the most fascinating granny in the whole of New Zealand. He was extremely proud of her.
He took her photo to school and showed his friends. 'This is my granny,' he said, 'and man, does she know some excellent words!'
His friends took one look at the photo of his neat, sweet granny with her wrinkled angel face and her candy-floss hair and laughed at him. 'Liar! She couldn’t even say bother without blushing.'
'What d’you bet?' asked Felix.
The friends were so sure they were right and Felix was wrong they happily bet a month’s pocket money each.
So Felix invited them round to his granny’s house for afternoon tea. He didn’t tell granny. He just walked in with six of his friends behind him. Granny Gibson turned round from the sink where she was making angel cakes. 'I’m pleased to see you, Felix,' she said. Only the way she said it made the six friends open their eyes with amazement. Not even when their fathers had hit their thumbs with hammers had they heard such rich, ripe words.
'Told you,' said Felix in a satisfied voice, holding out his hand for his winnings.
'Taking money from babies, Felix?' asked Granny Gibson, only with a few of her riper, choicer swear words thrown in.
The friends gawped and gaped.
Granny considered them. 'Aw, they probably deserve it. Look like a bunch of…'
But the friends had had enough. They weren’t going to wait round and hear what it was that Granny Gibson thought they were a bunch of.
Felix shared half his winnings with Granny. She pushed the money away. 'Keep it,' she said-using suitable embellishments. 'I swear because I like it, not to make money.'
Her sons tried to make her stop swearing. 'It isn’t dignified.'
Granny told them it was her business and if they didn’t like it they could lump it. As for dignity, she would worry about that when she was dead.
Her daughters-in-law protested gently that she was a bad example for the children.
Granny’s eyes gleamed. 'If I ever hear the children using any of my words they’ll hear all about it.' At least, that was the essence of what she said. The words she actually used made her daughters-in-law blush and quake so much they had to go home and have fortifying cups of tea.
Now life would have carried on like that until Granny Gibson had sworn herself off to the grave, except that one day she tripped over and broke her left leg and her right arm. She lay on the floor swearing until Felix popped in on his way home from school and found her.
He dialled 111 - a thing he’d had a yearning to do all his life - and asked for an ambulance. When it came he went with Granny to the hospital.
Up at the hospital they X-rayed her and plastered her, their eyebrows shooting up under their hair-lines at some of the language she came out with.
'Right,' they eventually said to Felix, 'take her home and good luck to you.'
Felix rang his mum. She came and collected them both.
'Granny,' said Felix, 'you’ll have to live with us until you can walk again.'
He waited for her to swear the biggest, fattest, juiciest swear she’d ever sworn in her life. She didn’t, she just sighed and agreed.
Felix’s mum almost drove off the road in astonishment.
She kept on being astonished as the days went by and Granny didn’t utter one swear word. 'I can’t stand it,' she said to Felix’s dad one night after she’d helped granny to bed, 'she’s so polite, it’s unnatural. She’s fading away with politeness.'
In the morning, Felix’s dad told Granny they’d like her to keep right on swearing.
'No,' said Granny. 'I do what I like in my own home, but I hope I’ve got enough manners to behave myself in other people’s houses.'
Everyone got worried.
'I'm sure she’s losing weight,' muttered the daughters-in-law.
'The strain of not swearing is killing her,' mumbled the sons.
But Felix was the only one who thought of actually doing something.
He rang up the eldest grandchild who was an electronic whiz kid called Celeste.
'Celeste,' he said to her, 'I want you to build me a machine.' He told her in great detail what sort of machine he wanted. Celeste laughed so much he thought she’d split but when she calmed down she agreed to do what he asked and do it quickly.
True to her promise, she arrived over on Sunday carrying a brilliant red box. She gave it to Felix, 'Here you are, mate. Made precisely to the desired specifications.'
Felix grinned. He marched up to where Granny sat in her chair, her plastered leg stuck out in front of her and her plastered arm tucked away in a sling. 'Granny,' he said, 'tell me exactly how you’re feeling.' Granny gave him a look fit to pluck a duck, but all she said was, 'I’m fine but I'm tired of being stuck in a chair like a half-chiseled statue.'
Felix put the box on her knee. 'No Granny,' he said, twiddling the dials, 'what you really mean is this: I'm WHEEEeeeeeEEEEEE!!!!! tired of being stuck in a SPLATTT SPLATTT chair like a ZER-BINGGG ZER BINGGGG half-cooked DAH DAH DAH statue.'
He watched Granny’s face. She stretched out her one good arm. She twiddled a dial. It went WHEEEEeeeeeeWHEEEEEE!!!!!! She smiled. She pressed a button. The machine went SPLATTT SPLATTT SPLATTT!!!!!! She giggled. She turned a knob. ZER BINGGGG ZER BINGGGG!!! She chuckled.
Felix reached over. He flicked a switch. 'This one is for when you need a really good swear. A top-notch, really impressive swear.' The machine went SPROWeeeeEEEEEKKKKKK!!!!!!!
Granny beat her good hand on her good knee in delight. 'What a SPROWeeeeeEEEEEEKKKKKK!!!!!!! great DAH DAH DAH invention!' She cackled with glee. Her eyes brightened and her voice grew stronger.
Her daughters-in-law and her sons sighed with relief. She was on her way to recovery.
Felix dragged Celeste off to the kitchen, 'Thanks Celeste, you’re the greatest.' He stared at her thoughtfully for a moment, 'Have you thought of making more of those machines? I could sell them for you if you like.'
'Felix!' yelled Granny, 'I've ZER BINGGGG ZER BINGGGG told you before, I don't SPLATTT SPLATTTT SPLATTT make money out of my WHEEEEeeeeEEEEE swearing.'
'Don't worry Granny,' Felix yelled back, 'I won’t give you any.'
He heard her cackle, 'You're a SPLATTT ZER BING DAH character, you are and no SPROWeeeeEEEEEKKKKK mistake.'
© Fleur Beale
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