I can see her, still sitting on that park bench where she was two hours ago. Old Pruney. I guess that's not very accurate, since her skin actually seems pretty soft. But she looks so old! Maybe she gardens. I don't know. I heard that helps, I think. Doesn't her butt hurt? She seems... unhappy. But not sad. Maybe happiness and sadness are on a spectrum, and you can be a little bit happy and a little bit sad. Wait, she's getting up. Finally! I wonder where she's going? I'll follow her.
I'm silent like the grave. A deadly shadow, dodging and ducking between the people on the street, always keeping a distance, never losing sight of my mark. I am stealth incarnate. I get distracted by a funny looking man in a Statue of Liberty costume. He's spinning a sign. I wave at him, and he does a special flip just for me. Wait. Where did Old Pruney go? Phew, there she is. Thought you could lose me, didn't you? She's turning into a big white building. Hospital.
Narrowly dodging through the closing electronic door, I look around the interior. I think it's cozy, with bright wood finish walls and a thick carpeted floor. Keeping to the corners of the room, I tail Old Pruney unseen. A pretty lady working behind the desk smiles at her. Old Pruney speaks, but her voice isn't what I expect. It's clear, and strong! Strange.
"I'm here for Mr. Packer," she says to Pretty Smile. Pretty Smile starts tapping on her computer. "He's here on the first floor, room 112."
"Thank you so much!" Pretty Smile nods, looking back down at her desk as Old Pruney walks through the door in the back of the Hospital. I move to follow her. Pretty Smile notices me somehow. She raises an eyebrow at me. I can see a hint of mischief in her eyes. I give her my biggest smile. She smiles back and asks me where my parents are. Thinking quickly, I point in toward where Old Pruney went. Her eyes change. Sympathy, I think? I make a note to myself to practice looking sympathetic. It makes me feel good.
Thinking quickly, I tell her, "I'm trying to find my grandma."
"Oh? Can you tell me your grandma's name?"
Thinking quicklyer, I reply, "Grandma Packer." I think that's a better answer than Grandma Pruney. That answer is apparently the right one, because she nods with her pretty smile and tells me to run after her.
I can see Old Prun- Grandma Packer, I mentally remind myself, sticking to my new cover story, just barely turning into a room with an attendant outside the door. He's tall, with very dark skin, and even taller hair. He sees me right before I can engage my stealth mode and calls out to me.
"Hey, kid! You really shouldn't be wandering out here alone," Tall Hair says, bending down on one knee.
"I'm not alone. I'm following my Grandma."
He smiles and pokes his head back into the room.
"Ma'am, your grandson is out here." I start to panic. I hadn't planned for this. Time to improvise an escape route.
Old Pruney steps back into the hallway and smiles at me. "There you are, grandson! I thought I told you to wait in the lobby, you little rascal." That voice is still so strong, but in a comfortable way, like how you can only stick your finger so far into chocolate frosting. I smile back uncertainly.
"Well, come on. If you found your way here you might as well say hi to Grandpa," she says, holding out her hand. Her eyes are trustworthy, so I take her hand and she gently pulls me into the room. It's a bedroom, I think? But it doesn't have any toys in it. Instead, it has science machines. An old man is laying in the bed. At first he reminds me of my dad in that funny bed, cause his skin is a bit see-through, but then he coughs and raises his head, propping himself up on some extra pillows. He has less hair than Old Pruney, and his nose is really really big. I look at Old Pruney, trying to figure out her MO. She has eyes only for Big Nose. Her soft face somehow melts even softer looking at him. She seems infatuated. I look into her eyes. Something stronger is in there, almost angry, but happy about it? She's dedicated to Big Nose, for some reason. I can see a little sadness in her eyes too. I don't really understand. Strong Eyes winks at Big Nose. "Your grandson wanted to say hi," she says.
Big Nose sizes me up and chuckles. "Hiya, sport! You're getting big, aren't you? Here, these flowers are for your mother." He pulls out a handful of smelly flowers from a jar and gives them to me. I take them, surprised at the generosity of the old man, even if they do smell bad. I look back at Strong Eyes. She pats me on the head and tells Tall Hair standing at the door to make sure I find my way to the lobby.
I have no trouble getting back to the lobby, and don't even need Tall Hair's help. I wave goodbye to him and Pretty Smile, then slip back outside. The day feels just a little bit warmer. When I get home, I pat Mom on the head and give her the smelly flowers. She's hunched over at our table with the dim kitchen light on. She looks up at me and seems emotional. I guess she really does like the flowers. I look her straight in the eyes and look sympathetic. I can see her eyes change. Strong, like Strong Eyes' were in that bedroom. Mom and I hug each other.