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Grandma Stannard (and why you shouldn't annoy the neighbours)







(and why you

shouldn’t annoy

the neighbours)




a short story



Tracey Meredith







Published by Tracey Meredith



Shakespir edition



Copyright Tracey Meredith 2016




It was three o’clock in the afternoon when old Grandma Stannard was woken from a deep sleep by a pounding on her door. She got up slowly, having fallen asleep in her rocking chair, slumped sufficiently to one side to give herself a very stiff shoulder and a sore elbow. Just something else that was going to start aching, she grumbled to herself.

She shuffled to the door, silently cursing her age and all its infirmities. The door received another pounding. “I’m coming, I’m coming,” muttered Grandma, more to herself than the caller outside. Who on Earth wanted to talk to her this urgently? She wasn’t expecting anyone, and she didn’t have any kith or kin she had to worry about. The house wasn’t on fire, the— Her thought processes paused. She sniffed. The house wasn’t on fire, was it? No, she couldn’t smell burning, and if anything was on fire in this house, she told herself, she would definitely smell it.

The knocking on the door continued. What was so damn urgent? She reached the door and put her eye to the spy-hole. There was no one there. She frowned. Don’t say it was one of those bloody dwarves again, trying to persuade her that her front yard needed tarmacking. “Look at the weeds,” they would tell her. “It will stop them growing. It will save you hours of weeding,” they would insist. But Grandma liked weeds. Bees and other insects liked the weeds, too, and though Grandma Stannard had no particular affinity or fondness for bees, she saw no point in depriving the creatures of their reason for being, just to give a bunch of shifty looking dwarves a job to do. And, besides, a lot of the weeds growing in Grandma’s front yard, aside from annoying the Hell out of nearby neighbours, were very useful—even the stinging nettles; though she had to admit, she hadn’t been too keen on the nettle soup recipe she had tried. Yes, it had taken a certain kind of courage, eating that. She never thought she would come across something that was worse than cabbage soup.

She pulled open the door and snapped, “What!” Two children stood on her doorstep, a boy and a girl, their likeness to each other indicating they might be related. They beamed at her, as though she was the very person they had been waiting for. “What?” said Grandma again, and this time, far more irritably.

“Trick or Treat?” said the boy, in an annoyingly sing-song voice.

“It’s April,” said Grandma coldly.

“And?” offered the boy.

“Trick or Treat happens in October,” Grandma reminded him.

“We know,” chimed in the girl. “We’re starting the offer early, so you can beat the rush.”

“Rush?” said Grandma. “What rush? There’s never any rush here.” And there wasn’t. Grandma had a Reputation with her neighbours, and particularly their children. “Don’t do Trick or Treat at Grandma Stannard’s door,” they would say. “She doesn’t do treats, but she knows a lot of nasty tricks.”

The girl interrupted her thoughts. “You don’t get many Trick-or-Treaters, then?” she asked, tilting her head to one side and shaking her thick, blonde curls. She’s probably been doing that since she was a toddler, thought Grandma. Presumably, no one has bothered to tell her it’s no longer cute. Vapid, yes. And definitely irritating. But not cute.

“Perhaps we could help you with that,” prattled the girl. “For a small consideration, we can arrange for an agreed number of Trick-and-Treaters to call at your residence—” Grandma slammed the door on the pair. She stared at the back of the door and wondered if she should have given the two a more terrifying experience. After all, she had a reputation to maintain. She shrugged. They had probably told their parents where they were going. Any satisfaction she might enjoy was not worth the risk.

She shuffled back into the kitchen, and noticed, with a shiver and a curse, that the fire in the kitchen range had gone out. She must have been asleep for some time. She opened the oven door. Yes. It was completely out, but still very hot. You wouldn’t want to put your hand in there.

She found the poker and agitated the ashes for a while, before bending down to obtain the knotted rolls of unread newspapers she cheerfully recycled every time she lit her oven. Three of them went in, then a bit of wood and a few pieces of coal. The coal always brought a smile to her face. Her neighbours were forever complaining about the coal smoke that issued from her chimney all the year round. They especially complained in the summer, when the noxious fumes upset their delicate babies trying to enjoy their paddling pools, and other summer joys. It was amazing how poisonous burning rubber could make the environment.

Grandma liked annoying her neighbours. People, she felt, were far too intolerant these days, too eager to complain about the slightest thing that might interfere with their own personal utopia. In her day, you shut up and put up, and the world had been a much better place for it.

She picked up the box of matches. There was a knock on her door. She chose to ignore it. She took a match out of the box and struck it. The head flared. There was another, louder knock on the door. Grandma started, and dropped the match. “Bugger,” she muttered. She tried again. The flame caught the newspaper and travelled up the edge of the page. She watched the rest of the rolls catch, before there was another knock.

“For crying out loud!” she snarled, shutting the oven door and shuffling out of the kitchen. “What!” she said, somewhat aggressively, as she flung the front door open. “What is it now?” It was the same two kids. “Go away,” said Grandma, with great self control, and slammed the door.

As she turned to go back into her (hopefully) warming kitchen, the knocker went again. Grandma ground her teeth, and chose to ignore what she knew would be a waste of her time. Once more, just once more, she thought to herself, and those kids will get what’s coming to them, and damn the consequences!

She opened the oven door to check on the fire. It had caught the coals now. Grandma threw on another shovelful of the reviled fuel, laughing to herself as she did so. That was one in the eye for Greenpeace, and all those panda-loving prats who were foolish enough to believe they could fight human ignorance and greed, and save the planet. Ha!

There was another pounding on the door. What the Hell was going on today? Was it Peeve Grandma Stannard Off Day? She pretended she hadn’t heard the door. After all, who would be out there that she would want to talk to? Those terrible kids? No, thank you.

But, whoever it was, wasn’t going to give up that easily. The knocking went on, and on, and on, and on. “Right,” said Grandma at last, angrily picking up the poker. They were really, really going to get what was coming to them, now.

When she got to the door, she looked through the spy-hole, just to check it wasn’t someone who might put up a fight. Again, there appeared to be no one there. “Bloody kids,” she grumbled as she threw open the door.

“Ah, good day, madam,” said a tall fellow in a pin-striped suit. He carried a brief-case in one hand and a furled umbrella under his arm. His other hand sat firmly in his pocket. “May I—?” he began. Grandma shut the door on him. She peered through the spy-hole again. According to the spy-hole, either no one was there, or someone very short was. She frowned, further wrinkling her already wrinkled brow. That fellow had been at least six feet tall. Why couldn’t she see him?

She opened the door again. The man was still there. “Ah,” he began, putting his free hand hurriedly into his pocket. She shut the door, again, and peered through the spy-hole, again. He definitely wasn’t there. She opened the door, ignoring the man’s words about double-glazing as she carefully studied the spy-hole on this side of the door. It was still there, and it didn’t appear to have been tampered with.

She turned to face the man, who was continuing with his spiel as though Grandma was giving him her undivided attention. “And of course, madam, and I mean no offence when I say this, but for a lady on her own, so rich in years as you, there is the additional comfort of security. All our windows and doors come with—”

“No, thank you,” said Grandma. “And I’m thirty-one,” she lied, as she slammed the door in his face. She hurried back to the kitchen. There hadn’t been that much coal on that fire. If she was unlucky, the flames would have consumed it all and the fire would be—

She pulled open the oven door and gave a sigh that sounded more like a growl. Yes, the fire had gone out. She would have to start again. More paper went on. The hot coals underneath it started to make the paper smoke, but refused to co-operate fully enough to make the paper actually ignite. She fetched the match-box off the shelf, but, before she could even open it, there was another knock on the door. Grandma clenched her teeth and continued opening the match-box. Then someone banged on her door so hard, she jumped, and spilled at least half the box’s contents onto the floor. She cursed loudly, before lowering herself slowly and ungainly to her knees, to pick the matches back up. She had no idea if she was going to be able to get up again.

As she scrabbled on the floor, the knocking continued with such a terrifying intensity, Grandma began to fear the door would come off its hinges. She quickly stuffed the matches back into the box, threw some more paper, wood and coal into the oven while she was down there, lit it, and slowly climbed back to her feet, using the chimney breast for support.

She looked at the door. It was shaking with every knock. Whoever was knocking was either very big, or very angry. She paused for a minute, before picking the poker up again. She didn’t know how useful it would be, but she wasn’t going down without a fight. She brandished it in front of her as she shuffled back to the front door. Again, she looked through the spy-hole. Again, she saw nothing. Again, she frowned. The door bounced on its hinges. Surely anything that could hit a door that hard was going to be big. She steeled herself, gripped the poker and opened the door.

There was no one there. She looked left. She looked right. She shuffled a little way down the footpath and looked around the sides of the house. Nothing. No one could have been that quick, surely? She turned to go back in, and stopped as she heard a loud squeak. She looked down.

A crowd—and that was the only word she could use to describe them, there were that many—of mice was occupying her footpath. She had nearly stood on them. “And what do you want?” she snapped. All the mice turned their head to look at her. It was rather disconcerting. Then one of them squeaked, and before Grandma could stop them, they all rushed up the path and into the house.

Grandma stood motionless, her mouth hanging open in silent surprise, staring after the mice. As the last tail disappeared through the door, she pulled herself together. Not in her house, not mice! Not any kind of vermin.

She shuffled back in, still brandishing her weapon of choice, and entered the kitchen. The mice were nowhere to be seen.

Now, where could the little beggars be hiding? She had to get them out. If that many mice started chewing on the fabric of her home, there wouldn’t be much left of the place by this time tomorrow.

She opened the oven door, put a shovelful of coal on the burgeoning fire, and started looking for mice. This was going to be a long afternoon, she thought. She picked up her heavy, cast iron frying pan and tried a practice swipe. Yes, a little bit on the heavy side, but just the thing to squash the creatures good and proper.

She had just begun looking under the welsh dresser, when the door went again. Grandma paused. What would it be this time? Jehovah’s Witnesses? No, she was not going to waste her time even considering answering the door to them. She tore a piece of bread off a loaf, placed it on the floor, stood beside the dresser, and waited.

The knocking continued, even louder now. It was no use. The creatures weren’t going to come out of hiding with this racket going on. Grandma sighed, and shuffled yet again to the door, flinging it open with an angry, “Now what?”

“Hi,” said one of two suited young men. “I’m Josh, and this here is Ben, and we were wondering if we might talk to you about Jesus…” Grandma slammed the door.

She returned to the kitchen and glanced around. The mice had already been at work. Parts of the window sill had been severely nibbled. Grandma seethed inwardly. Really, there was only one way to get rid of all the little blighters. She’d be in trouble with the Sisterhood for it, she knew, and it would draw even more unwanted attention to her from nosey folk in the village, confirming the rumours that already abounded, but really, what else could she do?

She began to rummage in cupboards and drawers. Now where had she put it? She hadn’t used it since—oh, it had to be that irritating girl and her phobia of needles. The girl hadn’t, it should be said, a phobia before she met Grandma, but she had one by the time Grandma left the premises.

Another round of knocking began. “Touch anything,” Grandma shouted to the mice, “and it will be the worse for you!” As she turned to go, she was sure she heard something blow a raspberry.

Grandma opened the door. There was no one there. Again, too late, she looked down, just in time to see a dozen or so large brown rats rush past her feet. “No!” cried Grandma, shuffling after them.

The rats were everywhere as she entered the kitchen. She had no way of getting rid of them other than—well, she’d already reached that conclusion about the mice, hadn’t she? There was no need to justify her actions to herself again. But she had to find the wand, first.

Another knocking on the door. “Oh, for crying out loud!” shouted Grandma. “Is there really no peace for the wicked?” She stomped back out of the kitchen and to the front door. “Go aw—” was as far as she got. The figure before her was tall, and dressed in a combination of tights and tunic, both of which were decorated with black and white diamonds. Or possibly squares, depending on which way you viewed them. He was tapping what appeared to be a flute on the palm of his hand, but Grandma’s eyes were inexorably drawn to the codpiece. “Oh, my!” she exclaimed, before she could stop herself. She felt herself blushing.

“I was just… passing,” said the young man, with a smile. “Vermin control,” he added. “Got… any… vermin?”

“Hmm,” said Grandma, perplexed. This was all very convenient. She smelled, dare she say it, a rat. Or, rather, about a dozen of them.

“I only ask,” explained the young man, “because some of your neighbours have been… plagued? Yes, plagued… by vermin. So, as I’m in the area, I thought I’d check if anyone else is suffering with… vermin.” He smiled again.

“Well,” said Grandma, still highly suspicious, as wicked people tend to be, “as it happens, yes.”

“Super!” said the young man. “Well, not for you, of course. But it makes my journey worthwhile, hey?” There was that smile again. “Well, shall we?” he said, indicating the doorway.

Grandma shuffled back in. The kitchen showed signs of further erosion. Grandma tutted. “Oh, dear,” said the young man, also noticing the damage. “The place isn’t going to last too long, if we don’t get them out, is it? Probably,” he added, looking around the kitchen, “on reflection, not the best building material to use. Though, I suppose, cheap and easy to repair.” He put the flute to his lips. “Right. Shall we get started?” He blew.

You couldn’t really call it a tune. Noise would be nearer the mark. Grandma began to wonder, very quickly, whether the young man had ever got much further than, Lesson One: How to Blow, before giving up flute lessons entirely. Grandma was just about to lay about him with the frying pan, when two mice suddenly scurried up to his feet, followed by three rats. Within five minutes all the rats and mice were gathered in a crowd around the young man’s feet. “Okay, guys,” he said to the rodents, “if you could just wait outside, we’ll wander down to the river and see if we can find you a nice new home. Okay?” And, to Grandma’s astonishment, the rats and mice did as they were told.

The young man gave the old lady another smile. “Is there anything else I can do?” he asked. Grandma, her mouth too busy hanging open to talk, shook her head. “Sure?” he said. “Well, I’ll just put some more coal on that fire for you, and then we’ll be on our way.” He opened the oven door and piled more coal on. “That should keep you going,” he began. “We don’t—oh! Should that be in there?”

“What?” said Grandma sharply. “Should what be in where?”

“That,” said the young man, pointing to the furnace. “In there?”

“What?” said Grandma, pushing him rudely out of the way.

“There. Right at the back. Do you see it?”

Grandma leaned further forward, trying to see the back corner of her fire place. “Where, exactly?” she said.

“Just—there,” said the young man, and on the word “there”, he put his foot on Grandma Stannard’s backside, and pushed her firmly into the oven. He then bent down, calmly folded her legs in, and slammed the oven door shut, pulling the handle down to lock it as he did so.

The young man turned around and, without so much as a backward glance, left the house to join the rats and mice waiting for him. “Okay, guys,” he said, bringing the flute up to his lips. “Well done. And now, it’s party time.” And the young man led them out of the garden, skipping to the tune of Ding-dong! The Witch is Dead.

Round the corner and out of sight of Grandma Stannard’s cottage, the young man met with Granny’s previous visitors. “Any luck?” said the double-glazing salesman.

The young man nodded smugly. “Mission accomplished,” he said with a grim smile. “She’ll bother you no more.”

“What?” said Ben. “What do you mean by that?”

“She’s… gone,” said the young man.

“Gone?” said the double-glazing salesman. “We weren’t intending Gone. We were just attempting Annoy. And maybe a little bit of Revenge, if possible.”

“Well, the mice and rats annoyed her,” pointed out the young man. “Quite a lot, in fact. She was quite happy to let me in to remove them.”

“No!” exclaimed Josh. “She actually let you in? Dressed like that? We didn’t even manage to exchange words.”

“Of course you didn’t,” snorted the double-glazing salesman. “The only thing Granny Stannard can’t abide, more than precocious children, is religion. You’re lucky she didn’t just change you into frogs!”

“Even so,” said Josh. “The Pied Piper? Really? How could she not suspect that?”

“Oh,” sighed the young man, “I’d like to think it was my personable good looks and charm, but I suspect it was the infestation of rats and mice that had her attention.”

“Yes, but the Pied Piper?” said Ben. “How did you get her to leave, anyway?”

“Oh,” sighed the young man. “I suppose you could say, she was burning to leave, and the rodents and I precipitated it. I thought she was being a little hot-headed, myself.” The young man grinned.

Ben looked at the rats and mice around their feet. “What are you going to do with this lot?” he asked.

“Well, I think they deserve a few days off,” said the young man. “Why don’t you,” he said, addressing the rodents, “spend a couple of days at Grandma’s?” There was a twittering and squeaking and then the rats and mice headed back to the cottage. “That’ll save demolishing it,” muttered the young man.

Ben and Josh stared, amazement written on their faces. “How did you do that? It’s like they… obey you, or something,” Ben said.

“Oh,” said the young man, tucking his flute away, “it’s just a gift.” He sauntered off, following the rodents.

“Strange bloke, your mate,” said Ben to the double-glazing salesman, as the young man disappeared from sight.

“My mate?” replied the salesman. “I thought he was with you.”

A few days later, all that was left of Grandma Stannard’s cottage was a few mouldy pieces of gingerbread, a rusting kitchen range and fireplace, and some extremely fat pigeons who had joined the feast. The rats and mice had disappeared and Ben, Josh, the double-glazing salesman and the two children never saw them or the young man again. However, curiously, the neighbouring town later reported an infestation of rats and mice that it had been unable to get rid of. The town council is currently considering a quote from a pest control company, P. Piper Ltd.



The End






Shakespir Edition, License Notes



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Tracey has also published



Finding Richard




The Angel in Towerhouse Wood





(a free book)




Never Put Your Hand in a Crocodiles Jaws






Discovering the Wolf


(a free short story)






at Shakespir.com








You can contact Tracey at




[email protected]












and see more, occasional work, and what she can only call “stuff” at








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Grandma Stannard (and why you shouldn't annoy the neighbours)

“Trick or Treat?” said the boy, in an annoyingly sing-song voice. “It's April,” said Grandma coldly. “And?” offered the boy. And so begins the worst afternoon Grandma Stannard has endured for a long time. People just won't stop knocking on her door, trying to sell her everything, from double-glazing to Jesus. And we won't even go into her sudden vermin problem or the mysterious man in black and white. What in the world is going on? A short story based (very loosely) on an old fairy tale.

  • ISBN: 9781311427625
  • Author: Tracey Meredith
  • Published: 2016-03-01 01:05:16
  • Words: 3847
Grandma Stannard (and why you shouldn't annoy the neighbours) Grandma Stannard (and why you shouldn't annoy the neighbours)