Friday, October 23, 2020

Stella's Beauty Salon by Laura Davis Hays

An alcoholic-in-remission sponging off his grandmother tries to turn his life around; by Laura Davis Hays.

So Mom and I put my Old Grandma in Friendly Acres Retirement Home last summer. Mom signed the papers with her limited power of attorney and I did all the heavy lifting. It's a nice place and she can afford it, all right? She's a rich old broad, what with the insurance money and all, and they have bingo over there and little tea socials and all the ice cream sundaes she can eat. What could be wrong with that?

Well, lots of things, you might say. Like her roommate, Stella, for instance. Stella's a real hoot. Came all the way from Brooklyn, New York, and talks a mile a minute in that accent of hers, big vowels and all. Never shuts up about her daughter, the hairdresser, back in the Bronx, and her son, the lawyer, who lives in Albuquerque but never visits, and her husband Herb, who died in like the middle of the last century. He was an airline pilot, and she was a stewardess back when they flew over to Europe in these big prop planes and had to stop in Newfoundland or Greenland to refuel. It took 15 hours or 18 hours. That's how they met anyways, on one of those long overnights.

When we signed Old Grandma up, and Mama went AWOL again, they told me I was the one who had to go over there at least once a week to cheer Grandma up, let her know she's still got family. Well, I figured it's not nearly enough, especially in the beginning, when your favorite loved one is getting used to all those crazy old folks running around, eating dinner at five, and listening to her non-stop talking roommate, Stella. Pretty quick I realized it could be a good deal for me, too. See they have this great buffet, cafeteria style, and you can go back for seconds as many times as you want. And the best part is, it's free. Since that asshole Chuck fired me, I need to eat, you know. Sometimes I even take a doggy bag so I have something to do besides drink beer at night, which I can't do anymore since I joined AA. This big old house is lonely, now that Old Grandma has moved out, so I decided to start fixing things up. I couldn't do it while she was still here and in my way - I mean that in a good way. The porch is hanging by a thread, and the boards are rotten out back, and the paint is like a century old.

If Mom wasn't such a fuck-up, I wouldn't have to be doing all this.

OK, Mom. I know I can't be, like, in denial about her forever. I'm supposed to have compassion, at least be working on it. We hadn't talked in three years before this Grandma business last summer. Mom did her part, then vanished right after. I know what she's up to. Got some man or other, and they're traveling around stirring things up. She went down to Florida, then out to California, I know that much from cousin Jamie. Jamie always sends her money if she asks, cause Jamie's a wimp. Mom doesn't call me anymore, and grandma doesn't have a phone. I didn't install one over there at Friendly Acres, just because of that. Poor Grandma used to cry when her only daughter would call her up and talk real nice for like ten minutes before she hit her up for money, and me in the background yelling for her to say no. Mom wouldn't be that nicey-nice if I answered the phone first, and she wouldn't try to hide what she was doing. You could hear the ice cubes clinking and beer tops popping in the background and she'd beg a little then get all worked up and start yelling about what a selfish bastard I was, just like my good-for-nothing dad, the gambler.

So, what I'm telling you, is how Grandma and Stella cooked up this little scheme over at Friendly Acres. They've both got plenty of dough, but with the gaga mind and all, and maybe something about the Depression (I mean capital D that a certain generation lived through, not the other thing everyone else is always talking about like it's some cold you can catch at the mall), they don't think it's going to be enough. I wish I had half their dough. One tenth. I got Grandma to hand me over the little checkbook, the one that the social security goes into automatically ever month, but it doesn't stretch too far what with the cost of utilities these days and that cell phone bill of hers (OK, I had to get her a cell phone, but Mom doesn't know about it so far). Grandma's still hanging on tight to the mother lode, and I think Stella's got her half-convinced to turn it over to that lawyer son of hers. You bet I'm fighting that. For her own good, of course.

So one day, the old ladies went out on the senior van to Wal-Mart and came back with all these boxes of blue rinse and scissors and curlers and stuff, and then they asked me to make them a sign that said Stella's Beauty Salon, because Stella was the one with experience because of her daughter, and I did it. They put it right on the door to their little two bedroom and started taking customers.

No one noticed at first, they just thought it was a little personalized decoration like everyone has on their door so they remember which one is theirs, but the two of them talked it up at lunch time and during bingo, saying things like, "Dorothy, isn't it time you got rid of that white hair?" Before long, they had customers.

Let me digress a minute to dear old Dad. He was a real son-of-a-bitch, no doubt. Used to sling cards over at the casino when I was in high school, and once I snuck in with the food delivery and just sat and watched him, dealing fast and yucking it up with the customers. Knew which one he was, cause of the missing pinky. Got a poker face, and that hair like mine that's half curly and sticks up every which-a-way if it gets too long. Old too, like almost sixty, even then. Guess he took advantage of Mom when she was young and naive. That made me feel a little bit bad for her, this old guy knocked her up and all when she was barely twenty. But he was good at his job, that much I saw.

First customer at Stella's Beauty Salon was Anna, this old Swedish broad who wanted a permanent. I went over there to help. They took this poor woman into the bathroom, and set her down on the toilet and leaned her over into the shower. See, the bathrooms are really small and the showers have this long hose that sprays out in different shapes, and Stella was holding her up and Grandma was in the shower in her shower slippers and her raincoat, doing the dirty work.

Then they were at the sink pouring on the smelly stuff, and twisting in these little tiny rollers with their stiff old hands. I think they bought the most old fashioned boxes of beauty products they could find. And it did stink.

Grandma has this old hair drier from, like, the 1950s. It has a noisy little box that runs it, and a hose that feeds into this plastic shower cap that inflates with all the hot air. Anna didn't seem to mind any of this, just sat there with the puffed up shower cap humming along in Swedish, giving out only an occasional little yelp of surprise when a trickle of cold water ran down her neck.

The result wasn't pretty, but neither is Anna. In my book anyway. And I guess she can't see either, cause she just kept turning her curly head this way and that while Stella poked and pulled on the tight little curls and grandma stepped in with the scissors every once in a while. Then Stella sprayed it up nice and stiff, with like half a can of hairspray. Well, you wouldn't think that would make much of a publicity campaign what with Anna going around looking like a poodle, but for some reason the old ladies started streaming in to get theirs, and even the old men. I think they liked that Grandma got into the shower with them.

So you see we got into a little trouble, or I did, because I was staying over there on the couch some of the time to keep me away from the booze. Not that they didn't have booze over there. Pink wine in boxes that some of the old lushes had for lunch, and a little Red Burgundy for supper, and that was mainly it; no Black Jack or tequila - my personal favorites - or even beer that became my eventual compromise though I could make it into a non-compromise if I started early enough and ended up pouring it down my throat like it was my job or something.

The couch was a fold out, and the rules definitely stated that it could be used for family members who came to visit - from far away, for a weekend was the idea - but they didn't have anything that said specifically for how long, so I was legal, so to speak. Not that it was comfortable, 'cause of the ultra-thin mattress and the metal frame, but it was better than the loneliness I'd started to feel over at Old Grandma's house. Plus I'd gotten things torn up a little bit and the bathroom was kind of uninhabitable and the porch had fallen down completely so you had to climb up this pile of cinderblocks to get in the front door. And there was a little trouble due to the construction and the neighbors and the lack of a building permit. Plus it was starting to get interesting over at Friendly Acres Retirement Home.

I was tired of Stella's stories but some of the other ones' were not half bad. I liked hearing about the war when men were men, and women were home taking care of the babies or waiting on their sweethearts to finish up with the fighting and come home. Then Stella would correct the old guy, Carl Caruthers, or Caruso he was sometimes called for his singing, and say that the women had been working like crazy to keep the economy going back home, breaking into the workplace and changing the world for future women and all. Hadn't he ever heard of Rosie the Riveter?

Carl came in every day or two for a shampoo, just like the ladies, and he let them trim his eyebrows and his ear hair, and buff and shape his nails until they shined like yellow moons. By now, they had a station set up in the kitchen for the washing and the dying, and the cutting was done in there too, but the other services had moved to the living room, meaning I had to put up the bed every day and make it look like a couch again. This was good for me, so I didn't get too lazy and sloppy and depressed with a small d.

You see, I had a job now, collecting the beauty money, counting it and keeping a tally, and taking it to the bank. Like I said, the old ladies each had plenty and most everything was paid for anyway, and they both had these platinum credit cards they used when they went to Wal-Mart, which was starting to deliver, by the way, so this was just icing on the cake, as Grandma liked to say.

The cleaning staff didn't care either, because Grandma always left a five dollar bill on the Formica table top, and it was gone by the next morning.

The one who made trouble was named Lydia and she was the new head of admissions, and plus she had a little beauty shop that was part of the services for Friendly Acres, but no one went there anymore because it wasn't nearly as much fun. Lydia worked for "corporate" as she was fond of saying, and "corporate" knew how to run a tight ship. What corporate mainly knew how to do was make lots of money off these old folks as I saw when I looked at one the bills that they delivered by mistake one day. See, the funds were just supposed to be deducted automatically from the BIG account, which Grandma had full of so much dough, that no one ever had to worry what came out automatically.

Well, I found out they were charging $12 every time I had lunch and $20 for my dinner, and another $20 a day for the couch, but that wasn't the half of it. On top of the outrageous rent for a double "suite" and the meal plan for Grandma who ate like a bird as she was fond of saying herself, there were all these charges for pills and even a wheelchair she hadn't used since her ankle was twisted and that was before Christmas. So I made the mistake, in my growing role as Grandma's accountant and money manager, of taking the wheelchair charges up with Lydia. By then all she was focused on was my living there on the couch and she kept ranting about how corporate didn't allow that kind of thing, and then she said she'd heard rumors about unapproved activities, and so she set up an inspection. Or, I should say, she executed an immediate inspection.

It so happened that Anna was back that morning getting a new "close to the skull" cut because her permanent was starting to break off, curl by curl. Stella had her wrapped in a big sheet of plastic and was telling her that her cheekbones were fabulous and the shape of her head so gorgeous now that you could really see it beneath the hair that was mostly less than an inch long except for the little tail they'd left at the back. I could kind of see what they were talking about. Anna, being Swedish and all, did have a kind of bony look beneath the wrinkles, and, with her longish nose, she looked like an exotic bird.

Well Lydia had a fit when she saw what was going on. I don't know how she'd missed it, except that she was so busy talking to corporate all the time about filling those residency vacancies and getting the services cash flow up. So she put a stop to it, once and for all. She didn't even let them finish the rest of Anna's haircut, and then Carl was walking in for his mustache appointment without even knocking, and that's when she really lost it.

When we were alone again, Grandma and Stella kind sat around a little dejected and then they had a half-hearted fight about what time they were going in to dinner, at the 5pm early seating, or the 6pm regular. I was feeling terrible too, so we went to the early one, and I ate three deserts: lemon meringue pie, pumpkin pie with whip cream, and chocolate Bavarian cake.

After dinner, Esther came over to check on her appointment, Thursday at ten, and Grandma had to tell her the Salon was canceled indefinitely. Esther was so disappointed and I was pissed. How could corporate deny two old ladies a little fun in their later years? Well, my war with corporate started over that. I went over to Lydia's office and demanded to see all of Grandma's bills since the beginning and she said no, I wasn't the one on the paperwork, that was Mom because she was next of kin and had limited power of attorney. I'd have to get her permission.

Mom was not easy to get hold of. The last I'd heard was a PO box in Hollywood California, so I sent a letter there, marked Urgent, and waited. Meanwhile, Grandma and Stella were getting a little depressed with a small d. Squabbling, going to bingo twice a day, complaining about the food. Stella stole the TV clicker and hid it in her room because she wanted to watch Jeopardy and Grandma wanted to watch E-News which came on at the same time. It was so toxic over there (TOXIC was a word my sponsor, Leslie, was always using to define her relationships with her exes) that I moved back to Grandma's.

Meanwhile the neighbor had gotten my "project" as she called it red-tagged, so I couldn't rebuild those front steps or do anything that you could see from the outside. So I started working on the inside just to spite her. Every day when I came back from Home Depot with the back of the station wagon filled up with paint or tile or with 2 by 4's sticking out of the back window, she was there, hands on hips, phone at the ready. I would pull into the garage and leave the door open so she could watch me unload everything and take it inside. Not one speck stayed outside.

You might be wondering how I could afford all this lumber and stuff. Well, I opened an account in Old Grandma's name - I found her social in a box in the garage with hand-filled-out tax returns going back to like 1954, and memorized it with my photographic memory - and when they checked her credit rating it was like 845 or something. I knew I'd have to pay the piper as Grandma called it when the bill came, but I figured I'd think of something.

The good part of all this rebellion on my part was that things started to look kind of nicer inside. My sponsor, Leslie, advised me to focus on one room at a time. FOCUS was another one of her favorite words, and she would come over to check on me and make sure I wasn't drinking paint thinner or more likely sniffing glue. The truth of it was, I was having a pretty good time and feeling some pride in my work.

I finished the bathroom all new with forest green tiles and bright white grout, and a new handle on the commode and a shower spray like the ones at Friendly Acres, and even a new grab bar in case Old Grandma ever came back to stay.

I started talking about this to Leslie, and she said not yet, don't bring her back until you finish all the rooms and get a nice handicap ramp built out front, which would mean I'd have to get a real building permit which would be hard because I have a thing with authority. Don't like it, I mean.

In school, I was always in trouble and that meant the principal's office and detention, or once, in junior high, they turned me over to Coach Sanders who was an ex-marine, and he made me run the stands and then do, like, 200 chin-ups. Afterwards, I puked all over the showers and he wrote a note saying I was incorrigible and they put me in the dumb class. I guess I was a little dumb in those days.

Plus, Leslie said I had to get my sobriety rock solid. She described my activities of late as a little manic, or "driven." DRIVEN was another bad thing. Addiction could be the driver, and wrong-headed thinking, with addiction behind it, was bent on getting you back to drinking or using or whatever it was that floated your boat. Driven was bad, your sobriety being in the driver's seat was good. Better yet was God in the driver's seat. The God stuff I never did really get because I just couldn't picture a white haired old guy driving anything other than a chariot. And that would look pretty stupid in the modern world.

The first Home Depot bill came in pretty fast because of the cut-off date and it wasn't so bad, so I let it ride. I figured they'd get more riled up the second month if I didn't pay it, and I'd figure something out by then. I had the bathroom really nice, but it made the towels look shabby, so I went over to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and set up another charge account for Grandma. I got a little excited over there with the bedding and pillows, bought a new quilt too, and then those curtains, faded and brown as they were, looked old and ugly, and that carpet - green stuff from before Kennedy - looked even worse. So it was back to Home Depot.

I was racking up a whole lot of charges for the second month, and I had to rent a dumpster to throw out all the old carpet and prehistoric pillows, and then some of the old cookware in the kitchen because they had such nice appliances at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I started making these health shakes every morning in the new multi-function blender I'd bought. I had some free samples from Vitamin House and a new friend over there named Free. Free, it turned out, was also in AA, but she and I went to different meetings, so we hadn't met before. Now we always kind of had a date for the Friday evening meeting over in the basement of the Methodist Church, and then we went out for pizza.

Under the carpet in the master bedroom which I was now fixing up for Grandma, I came upon some really ancient cash in two envelopes. All mixed up, a few hundreds and lots of ones and fives and some twenties, and in the back of each envelope a thousand dollar bill from 1964, the year Mom was born, with a little heart on it in felt-tipped pen. In the past, I would have just taken the money and had a party, but now, being more responsible and all, I got a little metal box for it, separated all the bills like in a cash register and got a ticket book of receipts, and every time I took money out, I wrote up what I was planning to use it for, like gas, or milk, or pizza. I figured Grandma would agree that I should be paying for the pizza when I took Free out after the meetings. She believed the girl should be treated like a lady. She taught me that when I went on my first date in high school. How to open the car door and that kind of thing.

Leslie came over to approve what I was doing, but I didn't show her the box which was in Grandma's top dresser drawer behind the rest of her old lady underwear that she didn't take to the home because Mom bought her some new frilly stuff that Grandma complained about and said was too tight. You can't trust an addict, and once an addict, always an addict, Leslie, being my sponsor, was fond of saying. That's why I didn't show her the money.

Who I did show it to was Free. Free, like her name, had a philosophy that everything should be free for everyone, at least things like health care and rent and food and love.

Free and I took advantage of the free love, that's for sure, and she didn't ever touch the money, not once. That made me know my relationship picker was maybe getting fixed, and my good judgment was finally coming back. Or coming in for the first time in my life, more like it.

Things were going so well that I didn't even go over to Friendly Acres for almost two weeks, and when I did, it was almost too late, because Mom had turned up again. She was there talking to Lydia about everything that had gone on including me staying on the couch and eating a lot of meals on Grandma's dime, as she called it.

"You're having a good old time, don't you think? Living on your Old Grandma's dime? Taking advantage of a helpless little old lady?"

That made me feel real bad because in my heart of hearts I knew it was true. But then we all went in to have lunch in the cafeteria, and Grandma and Stella and Mom all had some of the pink box wine to celebrate that we were all together as a family again. That wine smelled good and bad to me at the same time. So fruity and sweet on the breath, especially when they had the second glass after all the dessert was gone. I had two desserts - chocolate cake, and French vanilla pudding, which they probably made from some kind of powder out of a box, but it was still my favorite.

"You're going to get fat," Mom said when I went up to get the pudding. "On Old Grandma's dime," she whispered so no one else could hear it. But she was smiling this time like a conspirator.

Mom did have a conspiracy going, I found out, when she presented Grandma with a more complete power of attorney giving her total control over the money. Grandma took it all sweet-like and said she'd just have Stella's son, who was acting as her lawyer, look it over, but then she'd sign it pretty sure.

Meanwhile, Mom came back over to the house and was sleeping in Grandma's room with the new bedding and the carpet still all torn up, and she was drinking again.

I called Leslie and she said, "Duh, where do you think you got the behavior. You were MODELING your only parent. What else could you expect?"

Mom's drinking was actually a pretty bad problem for me because she likes tequila, which besides beer and Black Jack, was my drink of choice. The bottles were stacking up all over the house, and not all of them were empty. You know that temptation, the half inch in the bottom of the bottle, the watered down margarita just sitting there calling your name?

When I was little, I used to go around finishing up her drinks. At first it was just for the taste of it, but it was not too long before I realized the high was far better than the taste. Funny kid, I liked tequila right from the get go. She used to give me her sucked on limes - I just loved them - and I guess I got the flavor of the booze from that. She caught me drunk one time when I was 10, so I was more careful for awhile. I remember one time there was a bottle with an inch and a half left, and floating in it, a cigarette butt. I took it to my room. I don't remember where she was, but I think she'd gone out and left me alone. Still, I was careful. I was scared to pour the tequila out into a glass, in case I spilled some of it, and I couldn't fish out the butt through that skinny neck, so I just kind of sipped it, and after awhile I liked the taste of the cigarette butt even more than the tequila. Kind of a super-charged bong drink. Started me out on my smoking ways.

So Leslie came over right away that night, cause she heard the edge in my voice, and together we cleaned up all the booze and threw it away, just poured it down the sink. Mom was sleeping it off, and when she woke up she was pissed. "WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, MISTER!" That was the nicest thing she had to say. She ending with "YOU HAD BETTER REIMBURSE ME RIGHT NOW, YOUNG MAN!" Repeated it until I got it.

I wasn't sure that it was the right thing to do, but when Mom gets mad, you'd better hop to, so I pulled out $30 from Grandma's stash, which I'd moved to my own room, by the way, and wrote down the amount with a note: Mom's medicine, and that was that.

The real problem got a lot bigger, because the next morning, Mom took a shower, washed her hair and dressed up in a dress and stockings and a pair of grandma's conservative pumps, and over she went to the Old Folks home. She didn't offer to take me along, and since she'd taken the station wagon, I had to ride the old rusty Schwinn that was still out back. I got there just as she was marching in to see Lydia in that office after her nicey-nice visit to Old Grandma. Grandma told me all about it, all the fake nice things she said, and that made me feel a lot better because Grandma was onto her.

I knocked on Lydia's door, then went right it.

"I'm going to have her declared incompetent," Mom was saying to Lydia, who was nodding in agreement, like this was the best idea ever. They both looked up at me like, "We're just having a nice little girl's chat and what are you doing barging in like that?" It was my come to Jesus moment.

"Grandma is not in the least incompetent," I said. "She just wants to get her hands on the money. That's what she's always wanted." And I pointed at Mom.

Their eyes got big and doe-like, those two, and I saw they were in cahoots, so I stormed out of there while my dignity was still intact.

Meanwhile, Stella had called her son, the lawyer in Albuquerque, and he said no way should she sign the universal power of attorney or whatever it was. Specially because Grandma didn't really trust Mom, her beloved only daughter, "as far as she could throw her." Those were her own words.

That was when I really got grown up. I had Stella call her son back and I talked to him for like half an hour, even though he would actually qualify as some kind of authority figure. I found out he was really just a human being and sort of smart to boot. He told me he'd seen this kind of thing before, and it was really important to take into consideration the wishes of the family member, Elsa Smithers, which was my grandmother's name. Elsa Smithers should put her wishes in writing and have it signed by a notary public and be very sure not to sign anything that Mom gave her. So Stella and Grandma and I worked on it for like an hour before Mom and Lydia came back, and I typed it up on Stella's computer because I did, at least, learn typing in high school.

Grandma's paper started out like this: I, Elsa Smithers, being of sound mind do hereby declare my previous limited power of attorney given to my daughter, Nancy Cravens, as null and void. Furthermore, I disown Nancy Cravens and declare that she is no longer my next of kin, or my heir.

Then it went on to list all the things she wanted, like she could move back home and I, her grandson, George P. Smithers Cravens would become her full time salaried care-giver until she could no longer be cared for at home or until further notice, and then she'd move back here to Friendly Acres Retirement Home and room with her friend Stella.

So Stella got all excited and started writing up her own paper about getting to take a trip to Hawaii once a year and going to see the pyramids with her son, unless he didn't want to inherit a dime of her money.

Grandma told Mom and Lydia she wanted us to go over to the bank where she would sign Mom's paper so they wouldn't have to declare her incompetent. Mom got real excited and pulled a little miniature out of her purse and downed it on the spot to celebrate.

I drove the two old ladies and Mom over to the bank where this real nice lady named Momo Fingarten pulled out her metal notary public stamp and Mom handed her the paper. I was shaking by this time, what with the smell of tequila drifting my way and the cigarette smoke that clung to Mom's hair because she'd smoked like two of them in the car. I was afraid that Grandma would get mixed up and sign the wrong paper, but she had her glasses perched on her nose and I helped her put the right one on top of the wrong one. There was a tense moment when Momo Fingarten said Old Grandma needed to put her social security number down under her signature, and Grandma couldn't remember it. Mom was reaching for the paper, but I intervened. I rattled off the social out of my photographic memory and Momo filled in the blank. Old Grandma signed, clear as day, and then STAMP. So the day was saved. Momo Fingarten went over to the Xerox machine and made like seven copies and advised Grandma to get a lawyer to help her file the paper and take care of some of the details and then Stella said, "My son's a lawyer," and Momo Fingarten said, "That will be just fine and dandy."

Mom had somehow missed the switching of the papers and she went off to the bathroom and outside to smoke while Momo made the copies, so when she came back and saw what had happened, she went into one of her tantrums, raving at Grandma, saying she was a lunatic and it would all get settled soon enough. But she was drunk by then - I could hear all those miniatures clinking together in her purse - and they threw her out of the bank. I had the keys to the station wagon, so she couldn't get away, and the last I saw of her was her getting into a taxi and throwing Grandma's shoes out the window.

Now we're back in Old Grandma's house, the two of us, and she LOVES what I've done, and we even have a building permit and I'm putting in that hand rail and ramp out front and Stella comes over all the time, and Free, too, to help out and do a little vegan cooking to make us all healthy and live a lot longer, and we're fixing up the closed-in back porch as a beauty shop, and the two of them are making a brand new sign and are taking appointments, starting in two weeks. Free is even going to help out with her specialty of bright-colored streaks, purple, green, and orange. She said that white hair really makes those colors "pop."

Me? I'm actually going to make that two-week deadline, because I'm FOCUSED and feeling better than ever what with all the vitamin smoothies I'm drinking and the free love on the side every Friday after meeting. And I'm making plans. I'm going to become a casino dealer - they have a class for that - because maybe I inherited a little something good from one of them after all. With my photographic memory and my knack for money, I'll be a natural.

8 comments:

  1. I loved this story! Some of the images are priceless: "Grandma was in the shower in her shower slippers and her raincoat" and "they liked that Grandma got into the shower with them". Thoroughly enjoyed it all. Keep it up, Laura Davis Hays.

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  2. I agree with the writer above about those two images! I also love the hapless narrative voice and the two old ladies who aren't hapless at all. So fun to read the narrator's almost accidental progress toward purpose and security. This story was charming and great fun to read!

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  3. I enjoyed the ride as the story evolved and characters lined up on the side of good or on the side of evil. Grandma and Stella are nicely portrayed old ladies, and readers can readily cheer the narrator's efforts on their behalf. Thank you, Laura.

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  4. What a good story! I could see and hear all of them. And these days it was especially satisfying to have a happy ending: Grandma back in her home and the grandson employed and loved and purposeful.

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  5. I hope to hear more from George P. Smithers Cravens after he becomes a casino dealer and takes Old Grandma to Las Vegas with him. A very fun story to read, Laura! Lynn Watt

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  6. What a delightful story! I loved George's authentic voice. I was right there, listening to his "adventures"! I cheered for him and didn't mind that some of his behavior was (ahem!) rather questionable. I recognized his good heart and his efforts to overcome conditioned adversity. Fun to read--I read some of it aloud!

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  7. Enjoyed George's meandering narrative style and sense of humor. His life seems a bit like a derailed train that somehow found its way back onto the tracks.

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  8. Thanks for a delightful story, probably closer to truth than fiction in many nursing homes.

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