Grandpa Henry | McMaster & Stanbridge

The present day conflicts with memory as Grandpa Henry recalls his greatest victory!


Grandpa Henry

By Bianca McMaster and Deborah Stanbridge

All Tomorrow’s Barbies Award


The smell of burning plastic singed my nose hairs. For some, this acrid smell would be a source of discomfort and consternation, but for me it was a smell which called to mind a very beautiful memory.

I was five years old and my older sister, Patricia, always had one up on me. Being 8 years old, she knew a fair bit about how to annoy, embarrass, or torment me. She once put mud in my school bag and told my friends it was something else. The week before she had arm-wrestled me and hurt my arm in front of my friends and Lucy who lived next door. Then she teased me about liking Lucy in front of everyone, including Lucy, after our cousin’s wedding.

I hid outside in the rain until the guests had gone, sniffling and shivering in the cold. We had a wood-fire oven. It had been lit earlier that morning and the embers were still glowing so I put some kindling on and built up a nice little blaze. In my eagerness for warmth, I hadn’t noticed Patricia’s baby doll in the pile, well that’s what I said anyway when our parents asked me later.

As the flames rose, so gradually did the smell of burning plastic. It was the aroma which first alerted the adults to my absence. Patricia, like a hound with a scent whenever there was a possibility of me getting in trouble for something, was the first to arrive at the scene of the crime. Dolly’s mouth melted in a long drawn out grin. With a look of horror, my sister stood speechless as the last remaining limb bubbled away into oblivion. She mouthed at me “You are gonna get it now.” She turned tail and ran with angry tears running down her face. She had boasted that she didn’t need baby toys now that she was grown up, but I guess we tested that with fire. I knew her revenge would be ghastly, but for this one delicious moment, I relished the sickening smell of my victory. It was hard won.

“Can you not smell that horrid smell?” There comes a call from the kitchen dragging me away from my joyous reminiscence. That is my efficient-everything grandson. He worries about everything. “Grandpa Henry? Did you turn something on and forget about it AGAIN?”

“George, you worry too much.”

He looks like he swallowed a grapefruit with his bug eyes bulging out at me. I know he finds me an inconvenience in his achieving maximum productivity lifestyle. Maybe pity forces him to check up on me regularly, maybe it is his mother. George spins around and with his ferret nose twitching in the air starts to search for something to tell me off about. I let him do it. At least he isn’t bothering me now and I can get back to remembering. Where was I? Oh, yes. The flames grew higher and engulfed the ugly deformed and smudged face of that annoying baby doll. I didn’t like its eyes. They stared… Maybe even judged…

“Grandad… Do you have a fire extinguisher?”

“In my day, we had this thing called a bucket of water… ah those were the-…“

“So the answer is ‘no’?”

“I have a bucket in the back shed. What do you want with it anyway?”

“Can’t you smell the fire? Don’t-answer-that… Do you have a phone I can use?”

“Now just a minute. I have one here somewhere. Ah yes, itis  on the wall.”

He turned to look at the wall, and then back at me with his grapefruit face. He had started to talk faster, seemed frustrated and in a hurry. His colour has also drained.

“I NEED a quarter! Where is it? We have no time to waste!” He screamed.

“Yes, there is one over there on the counter.” I pointed to the kitchen.

He practically ran. He may not have time to waste, but I did. Well, now he has gone with his million and one annoying and silly questions, where was I? Ah yes, that baby doll tied to the pyre was en-robed in glorious dancing flames before long. I felt sad for it that its experience of a childhood was so tarnished by the terrors of Patricia’s declarations of war and my skirmishes in defense, but there are always casualties in war. It bubbled away like a childhood dream and like many of my toys had before it at the hands of the terror sister.

It wasn’t long before Patricia enacted her revenge, but I almost didn’t mind, so intoxicated was I on this victory. To me, I felt like Napoleon conquering the world. I was a superman, for I had done it. I had pierced her shiny scale-like armor and I had seen her weak spot.