• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 05

Family Matters

Gran kept her mouth shut for weeks. Didn’t talk, didn’t eat. The most she’d do was part her lips to sip tea or soup, straining the lukewarm liquid through yellowed dentures. Uncle Max wondered if it was a delayed reaction after all that had happened with Grandad, but Dad wasn’t so sure. He called a mechanic to diagnose the problem, a man with rough, oil-smeared fingers that probed and roamed Gran’s clenched false teeth.
“Aye, she’s faulty all right.”
“My mother?”
“Her dentures. Something has jammed them right up. Can you see that cog there? That should turn freely, but it’s stuck.”
“Can you fix it?”
“Aye, but it’ll take a while, and cost a fair bit.”
Dad laid a hand on Gran’s shoulder. Her lips formed a fine, puckered line.
“Of course,” the mechanic went on, “it’s probably cheaper for you to buy a whole new set. I can order them today and they’ll be here by next week.” He turned to Gran, raised his voice. “How’s that sound, love?” They were the first words he’d spoken to her.
She turned away, inhaled through her defective dentures.

They took over a week to arrive. The night before they were due to meet the solicitor Dad was restless, all ready to call up the mechanic and demand his money back when a rattling knock signalled the courier’s arrival.
Neat white teeth encased in plush gums. The mechanisms were discreet, barely noticeable, but with a little pressure they began to chatter amiably across our dining table. Uncle Max held Gran’s hand while Dad prised open her jaw, glancing down regularly at the installation booklet. Neither of them noticed her eyes watering.


Family Matters

Dad threw that old pair of yellowed teeth in the bin. They yawned open, revealing fragments of wood ground into the inner hinges.
“Right, Mother,” he said, as he wiped the saliva and blood from his fingers onto a dirty towel. “All better?”
Gran’s jaw fluttered. “They don’t fit right,” she croaked. “It hurts.”
Max looked at Dad. “I thought you gave that mechanic her measurements?”
“They’ll do for now. We’ll get her a new set soon enough.”

The next morning, before they took Gran to the solicitors, Dad and Uncle Max chewed on toast and discussed their next steps.
“It’ll need new carpets before we can sell it, and fresh paint, too.”
“And where will she stay while you’re doing all that? Sooner we sell that old house, the sooner we can pay the deposit and move her into the home.”
“All I’m saying is, people pay more when the place has been done up a bit.”
Uncle Max cleared up while Dad helped Gran with her coat. He brushed Dad’s crusts into the bin, not noticing the chattering sound it made, or the brand-new pair of bloody white teeth grinning up from the food waste.
“All ready to speak to the solicitor, Mother?” said Dad. Gran smiled and nodded, her lips pressed shut.