GRAN died on Christmas day; an hour after mum’s mega-dinner and enough sherry to kill a small dog.
The only things she brought to the feast were a heavy cold and determination not to smoke outside; cursing pubs that forced her into icy air, which is where, she’d have us know, she picked up the cold. I’d never seen anyone die. One minute she was lighting up, the next she slithered off the sofa, onto the floor and burned a hole in the rug as mum, me and my brother Joe, swooped.
Joe learned the kiss of life at Army Cadets but when Gran spewed yellow froth, he turned to stone. Mum tipped Gran’s head back and yelled 'Ring 999'. The operator was calm as I gabbled, then relayed to mum what she should do. Mum did it all by herself; like always.
The paramedics arrived, in bright-green jumpsuits, with clanking cylinders and agreed Gran was probably dead when she hit the floor.
‘See it often at Christmas,’ said jumpsuit one, patting his bulging beer gut. Jumpsuit two added apologetically: ‘Second today,’ as they hefted her on the stretcher. They diplomatically omitted feasting, booze and fags.
Gran made a noise which sounded like she was deflating as they lifted. Nobody mentioned it.
At the front door jumpsuit one said; ‘Happy Chris,’ but thought better of it.
While mum knocked back whisky, my only thought was to check The Will in Gran’s handbag before mum’s loaded brother got his mitts on it. The Will had been like the Sword of Damocles for a decade on her lap. On a daily basis Gran, who was a dab-hand in stocks and shares, mentioned who was in The Will and who was out. I grabbed the bag, went to the loo and locked myself in.
The knackered treasure chest contained used hankies, cigs, heart tablets, blood pressure pills, whisky miniatures and Lemsip. Underneath it all, like some archeological dig, was the crinkly, medieval-looking parchment.
I spread it out. Mum and her brother shared Gran’s house. Joe would get £50,000 when he reached twenty-one - but only if gainfully employed, so he might have to wait. There in newly-added red pen was what Gran left me. Her charm bracelet and a mystery.
‘You might be plain,’ Gran stated, ‘but you have a brain; so far unused. The bracelet comes with challenges. If you pass, you get your £50,000. If not the money goes to ‘Bring Back Smoking in Pubs for Research Purposes.’