Mary was aware of movement at the end of her bed. ‘Grandma, we’re hungry. Wake up Grandma.’ Mary peered out from under the doona to be greeted with two grubby little faces, and Bonnie’s rear end. It was only 5am. What is it with cats and showing you their arse?
Hayden began to bounce up and down on Mary’s bladder, which these days was rather prone to springing a leak if put under any sort of pressure. This included coughing, sneezing, jumping, or having approximately seventeen kilos of grandson jumping on your belly. ‘Don’t do that darling, Grandma needs to go to the toilet.’
After prising the little jumping jack from her abdomen, she took the kids downstairs, plonked them both in front of the TV, made them some peanut butter toast, and headed back upstairs to have a quick shower. Bonnie hot on her heels as usual.
Melanie had an early doctor’s appointment and had asked Mary to take the kids overnight. She thought they might head to the play centre down the road. The kids loved it, and luckily, it was only a short walk from Mary’s house. Mary liked the fact that she could sit and enjoy a coffee while the kids played. Chasing after two young grandkids full of boundless energy to burn, wasn’t easy anymore.
Once the kids were ready and Bonnie had happily settled in her favourite sunny spot by the front window, they all headed out the door to walk the short distance to the centre, Hayden stepping in dog poo in the first fifty metres. Mary had no wet wipes in her handbag, so back they all went to change Hayden’s shoes. They hadn’t yet managed to go anywhere, yet Mary was already exhausted.
Finally making it to the packed play centre, the kids were chomping at the bit to tear around the equipment like racehorses in the starting gate. Mary took off their shoes, and they were out of the gate, off and racing. Mary ordered herself a coffee and a piece of cake.
Many things about the centre grossed Mary out. It always seemed to smell of stinky little feet and dirty nappies. Play equipment could be seen covered in snot, saliva or half chewed up biscuits abandoned mid mission. She found a way to look past these issues, as it was somewhere to take the kids in order to tire them out.
‘Grandma, I lost my sock.’ Amy was pointing to a tunnel in which her sock had come off. Some poor kid had just brought up their breakfast inside it, and the mother was gesturing to a staff member to come and clean it up. The lost sock was not too far inside the tunnel, between Mary and the vomit, complete with undigested vegemite toast.
Mary knew she’d live to regret her decision. She got down on her old creaking knees, held her breath, as the stench was overwhelming, retrieved the sock, and slowly shuffled back out in reverse. The sock had been retrieved un-scathed. Mary, not so much. She hobbled back to her table to drink the rest of her coffee, hopefully in peace.
She had not yet managed to take a single bite of the cake, before she heard the commotion coming from the ball pit. A full scale riot had broken out between four little boys. Plastic balls were being hurled around like colourful missiles.
Mary once again left her coffee that was now going cold, to see what the hell was going on. Two anxious looking mothers, and one father, had joined her at the edge of the battlefield. Two of the young soldiers were crying, one was clambering up over the side to get to his mother, and Hayden stood defiant in the centre of the pit. ‘He started it Grandma.’
A staff member had witnessed the whole sorry scene. ‘That one there, pushed that one there into the ball pit for no apparent reason whatsoever.’ She pointed to Hayden, then to the little boy who was hiding under his mother’s armpit.
Mary profusely apologised for his behaviour, and they were politely asked to leave the facility. This was not the first time something like this had occurred. Hayden was a lot to handle at times. Mary was certain it wouldn’t be long before their faces were plastered on the front doors, telling the staff that they were barred from entering the centre, like wanted criminals on CC TV.
She dragged the pint sized felon from the ball pit, kicking and screaming like an unfortunate abduction victim, summoned his less than impressed big sister, and headed back home. Amy started to cry. ‘Why did I have to leave, I wasn’t the one who was naughty? It’s not fair.’ Mary marched Hayden through the front door and in the naughty corner. ‘Life’s not fair sometimes sweetheart. You have your brother to thank for that.’
When Melanie arrived to pick them up, she was glad to hand them back over to their mother. Mary loved her grandkids, but being left in charge of Hurricane Hayden was becoming a bit much at her age.
Unpublished Work (c) Hayley Walsh 2021