The Magic Puddle
A short story by Beth Griffith
“Thirteen years old,” Grandma grumbled. “Just a girl pushing out his big head. Now look at me! Damn near 50, raisin’ my grandsons. How much money does he give me? Room and board and feedin’ these bottomless stomachs... how much money?” She looked at her grandsons sternly, one hand on her bony hip. They had heard this speech many times before. They knew not to answer. “Seventeen dollars and sixty three cents.” She hissed out the figure. “How am I supposed to raise boys on that?” “You do a damn good job, Grandma.” Pete’s tone was reverent, but he couldn’t hide the mischievous glint in his eye. “Damn good.” Echoed Matt. He grinned, unable to conceal his excitement. Grandma took her time digging her lighter out of her back pocket. She plucked the cigarette from behind Pete’s ear and paused before she lit it. “You bet your sweet ass I do.” “Grandma, you have to come see the puddle.” Matt began walking again, twirling around every now and then when the excitement got to be too much. He was 12 and getting too big to be acting like an excited chihuahua, but he was Grandma’s favorite. He could do no wrong in her eyes. “It’s so cool!” “I hope it’s not too much farther,” Grandma was savoring her cigarette. “You know my stories come on at one o’clock.” “It’s just down at the old factory. We can cut through the woods.” Matt replied. “I told you not to play at that factory!” Their slow progress halted and Grandma’s hand returned to her hip. “I can’t afford to get y’all fixed up at a bone doctor if you break your fuckin’ leg. Seventeen dollars and sixty three cents don’t buy you no bone doctor!” “No, Grandma.” Pete agreed. “We don’t go in the factory. Magic puddle is in the front yard.” Grandma took a minute to look them over carefully before she resumed walking. “Well, I guess that’s alright then.” “We brought Daddy here too. He found a whole roll of copper!” Pete was back to his chihuahua dance. “It was damn near full too!” “That where he’s gone off to?” Grandma mumbled as she savored the last of the cigarette’s smoke. “Cash it in to buy a whore or two? Stick me with the kids while he goes off galavanting?” “‘Spect so.” Matt agreed. “Now, when your momma left I wasn’t near as surprised.” Grandma was out of breath. Smoking for several decades catches up with you after a while. She lit another cigarette to cope. “Shit, I told her she ain’t cut out to be a momma. Then she waited ‘till y’all is mostly grown to up and leave. It’s a damn shame.” “Puddle’s coming up on the left.” Pete didn’t want to hear about the $17.63 again. “Jesus, it sure do stink.” Grandma grumbled. The air smelled sulphuric and seemed somehow heavy. The closer they got to the puddle, the heavier it felt. She looked down and noticed the ground beneath her feet was soggy. There was a cloudy green muck oozing and squirting with each footstep. “Lord have mercy.” “Here it is!” Matt squealed. Grandma wanted to belt him a good one in his mouth for squealing, but when she looked up to inform him, she saw the puddle.
At first glance, the puddle did look magical. It was slowly moving, like a miniature ocean. It was mainly a dark teal, but its miniature waves crashed against rocks and old machinery parts to produce a golden foam before retreating. “Well, damn, boys.” Grandma was impressed. Pete thought it was probably the first time in her life she had been impressed, but he didn’t know about that trucker she banged behind the Citgo back in ‘83. The puddle was a close second to mayonnaise jar McGee. She threw her cigarette butt into the puddle, but it didn’t sink down. Instead, it floated on a mini-wave all the way to a discarded gear of some sort. “Big too, ain’t it?” “Yessum, plenty big.” Matt eagerly agreed. “You can stand on it too.” Pete mentioned casually. He kept a straight face as he took a step onto the puddle. His dingy crocs didn’t even get damp. He took another step and then another. “Comeon, Matt!” He called. Matt quickly joined his brother, standing perfectly safe and dry in the middle of the puddle. “What the fuck?” Grandma was intrigued. The magic puddle had just surpassed Mr. McGee. “Come on, Grandma.” It seemed to her that Pete... or maybe Matt had called her, but she was looking at them and they hadn’t moved their lips. Her intrigue quickly left, leaving a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Get off that.” She tried to sound her usual brash self, but her voice quivered. “My stories are about to start.” She turned to walk back towards the road, but found her left foot was stuck. She looked down and saw there was a vaguely hand-shaped protuberance sticking out of the boggy earth, pulling her towards the puddle. “Don’t fight,” Matt advised. “Hurts more if you fight.” Pete agreed. “You little shits.” Grandma muttered. She tried to kick the puddle hand away, but that only made a second hand form, to catch her other foot. “No!” She pulled her pocket knife out of her back pocket a split second before her ass hit the ground. She quickly opened it and began trying to cut herself free. The knife quickly disappeared. “You little fuckers!” She screamed, fingers scratching uselessly at the ground. Matt and Pete laughed as they got off of the puddle and back to the soggy land surrounding it. They each selected a comfortable seat on a mossy log and watched their grandmother struggle against the magic puddle. Just before her head went under, Matt called, “Be sure to say hi to Daddy for us! Momma too!” Grandma opened her mouth to reply, but the magic puddle flowed in and silenced her forever.
Beth Griffith lives in Maryland with her husband, three children and a pathetically small herd of cats. She enjoys reading smut and gardening. You can watch saucy smut reviews, read salty book reviews and keep tabs on her questionable life choices on instagram @mrsbeverlygibbs .