The Adventures of Todd and Granny
(Alternatively: “I Saw Granny Ethel with the Devil”)
Todd the demon is a he, now, if only because Granny Ethel insists upon using copious ‘Dear boy, keep trying’ and ‘Atta boy!’ critiques to varying degrees depending on how well his needlework, crochet, and knitting attempts progress.
Gender isn’t a concept the demon concerned himself with before. If Todd had been, say, a girl named Tonya, he supposes he’d be a she instead. If Todd had been gender-neutral and properly communicated with his grandmother, he supposes she would call him they or child, appropriately. Granny Ethel isn’t one to discriminate. Even when she properly wears her glasses and sees his obviously un-Todd-like appearance, only shaking her head and smiling with a good-natured “kids these days” on her lips. But he wouldn’t mind if Granny Ethel called him boy, girl, thing, or abomination, so long as she stayed happy.
Granny Ethel is a patient woman. Todd simply can’t understand why or how she’d become the black sheep of her family, especially after a full week of living with her hospitality. Through the constant baked goods and the modest but satisfying three-meals-a-day; the careful (oh-so-careful) dusting of trinkets and bookshelves with tiny cloths and feather dusters not fit for large claws, which he insists upon doing while she looks on in worry before brewing more coffee; the midday television re-run breaks spent sealing cash donations into envelopes and discussing human rights issues instead of watching old shows, he simply can’t think of her as anything but a paragon of her kind.
It’s a problem with them, he concludes. Not her.
It isn’t a decision he makes lightly.
Spending such a brief time with her, he’s already learned so much more about humans than he ever would have cared to know, beyond perceiving them as vessels or a means to an end. There is much suffering in the world—sometimes even more than that in Hell—but there is also kindness.
He’s known that, but he witnesses it first hand during their first trip outside of Granny Ethel’s home.
“Come, now, Todd, we have much shopping to do. I’m afraid my pantry isn’t stocked appropriately for the upcoming food donation drive and I can’t just skip it this month.”
Todd remembers addressing an envelope to the local food bank—most people would stop there, figuring their good deed was done.
“I also have to stock up on this week’s groceries. Feel free to buy whatever you want, dear. I can cook anything, you know! At least, I try. I suppose you’d like some snacks, too. But I am so glad you’re here; think of all the bags we can carry between the two of us!”
There is no car in Granny Ethel’s driveway, or a garage to store it. He wonders how they’re going to make it to the grocery store as he waits for her to lock the door behind them, as she hobbles down the two small concrete steps with her cane in hand.
It isn’t until she’s halfway down the sidewalk that he realizes they’re walking. In public.
An old crone in black and a demon at her side, wearing a handmade shawl so lovingly stitched with various, terrifying occult symbols.
He isn’t the only one who sees a problem with this—the neighbor’s dog, a small, bug-eyed thing, yaps indignantly at them from the front lawn as it bounces around the dewy grass at its owner’s feet, soon erupting in warning yowls and howls, before falling silent mid-yip when Todd locks eyes with it. The neighbor—Maurice, if he remembers Granny Ethel’s gossip correctly—stands frozen, watering can dangling limp from his hand as he overwaters the begonias at his feet, mouth hanging open in undignified disbelief.
“Good morning, Maurice!” Granny Ethel calls with unmitigated cheer, and a hint of pride. “Nice morning, isn’t it? Oh! Have you met my wonderful grandson Todd? He finally came to visit! We’re going shopping now. Will you watch my house?”
Maurice simply stares, dumb with shock.
Halfway down the block, another neighbor’s car brakes with a squeal before they make it out of the driveway and they stick their head out of the window to gape.
Shutters crack open. Curtains are shoved aside.
Before Todd knows it, they are the cul-de-sac’s center of attention.
Granny Ethel doesn’t pay it any mind and continues obliviously on, waving to each face in turn as those faces pale, yet hers remains rosy.
“My, such a busy day today. I haven’t seen everyone out like this since the Fourth of July block party. Oh, if you’re still here during summer, Todd, we should definitely take part. Maybe we should start knitting an American flag for the occasion. What do you think?”
He can only nod.
They make it to the grocery store without incident—aside from the broken fire hydrant caused by a distracted driver and the one, single person who ran away screaming, and the handful that crossed themselves, and the one person bold enough to snap a picture with their phone before Todd grabbed it from their hands and threw it while Granny Ethel wasn’t looking, too distracted with how well the city’s roadside flowers were blooming—and Todd, ever the gentledemon, takes a small shopping cart from its line and trails behind Granny Ethel as she consults the list taken from her purse.
As expected, those within the store stop and stare. Even the calming elevator music jolts to a pause.
A young man in an employee vest, who looks high, shoots Todd the demon-horn hand sign and smiles before swaggering away to the frozen food aisle, and the manager meekly approaches them, skirting around a fresh fruit display.
“Ma’am, is there—is there something I can—do you need help?” he asks, sweating from his receding hairline to his neck as he tugs at his collar and straightens his frumpy tie.
“Oh! I’m so glad you asked. I didn’t see any sales circulars by the door—what kind of specials are on right now? Particularly on things like pizzas and cereals and whatever else young men like to eat.” Granny Ethel leans in close to the man, close enough to loudly whisper, “See, my grandson here is a quiet, shy boy despite his appearance, and I don’t think he’d ask me himself, but I bet he’d love to get some junk food to snack on between meals.”
The manager’s eyes widen, blood-shot, as he looks to Todd, who only smiles—which comes off as terrifying, he’s certain, with all the sharp teeth and red eyes involved.
“S-SURE! Junk food. Right. Um—uh, w-well, I think there’s a BOGO—buy one get one free—deal on the frozen pizzas. Uh…most cereals are marked down right now…th-there’s a sale on potato chips…hot dogs…” His voice trails off, too burdened with trembles and fear as he continues to hold Todd’s gaze. “And—you know, I’m sure some other employee can help you, ma’am. I’m not one anymore as of this moment. I QUIT.” That said, he yanks the flimsy plastic nametag from his shirt and runs for the door, followed by half of the shoppers who abandon their carts and drop their baskets, scattering groceries everywhere.
Granny Ethel watches him go, then sighs. “He must have been overworked and stressed. I almost walked out on a job a long time ago for the same reasons, but I needed it. You be careful of corporate America, Todd.”
He takes her words to heart, and he fully agrees.
Shoppers that remain in the grocery mart avoid them at all costs as they meander through the frozen food section, the bread aisle, the junk food corner—and Granny Ethel pays them no mind, filling the cart to the brim with refills of groceries she needs back at home and treats she thinks Todd needs more of in his life. He supposes he does, if she says he does. Far be it from him to contradict her adolescent-savvy wisdom.
Even so, the single shopping cart is far too small for all of the spoils—halfway through the shopping list, he finds them in need of another. It isn’t an issue. Many are left scattered, abandoned, around almost every corner. By the end of the list, both carts are full to the brim, and Granny Ethel is simply beaming.
The checkout lines are deserted—they have their pick. Although only one station is manned by a clerk, and it greatly narrows their choice.
As Todd wheels the two shopping carts to the register, he recognizes the young employee from before, who once again shoots him the demon-horn hand symbol.
“Love your poncho, dude,” Sam (as his nametag reads) comments with a bit of a tired drawl, and there are dark shadows under his eyes as expected from an overworked youth on minimum wage, but he is otherwise energetic, quickly scanning each of the items set on the conveyor belt, and smiling at demon and old woman in turn. “Did the little lady here knit that for you?”
“Crocheted!” Granny Ethel corrects with a grin, preening like a proud parakeet. “It does suit him, doesn’t it? Of course, I would never make something that didn’t suit my dear grandson. He must always be well-dressed.”
“You seem like a really supportive gramma. That’s cool. When I was in my super hardcore death metal phase, mine just dragged me to church every Sunday.” A digital beep accompanies nearly every word as he skillfully rings up each grocery down the line.
“Oh, I would never do that. Mainly because I no longer belong to a church. And also because Todd seems so averse to discussing Bible passages, so I never force him.”
At this, Todd gives a wry smile. He places the final handful of groceries onto the conveyor belt and sidles around Granny to the other side of the checkout, bagging the groceries that have already been scanned. It seems the official bag boy has fled in fright.
“I can imagine. Never one for religion, myself. Oh, and you’re eligible for the senior citizen’s discount, so let me just…” Sam pauses a moment to key in a code on the register and it dings. “Aaand, there. Your total comes out to $204.56. Stocking up for the winter already? It’s only March.”
“Oh, dear, no. Half of this is for the food drive!” Granny Ethel chuckles good-naturedly as she leans her cane against the counter and digs through her small pocketbook and produces a checkbook, then dives back in to search for her favorite pen.
Sam turns to Todd while awaiting payment. “By the way, dude, that costume is killer. I’ve never seen anything so realistic, with the added bonus that you scared the boss away! Totally made my day. My week, even.”
Todd gives a nod, happy to be of service, even if it isn’t a costume. He can’t exactly say it aloud. Perhaps one day he’ll learn how to speak English coherently, but for now nonverbal cues work just fine.
Finally, Granny Ethel finds her pink, plastic jewel-encrusted ballpoint pen and makes out a check to DeVille-Mart, even going so far as to take one of the heavier paper bags for herself, never one to make Todd carry all of the groceries himself. “You have a wonderful day, young man. Thank you.”
“Y’all have a great day, too, Ma’am.” Sam offers a toothy smile, and it seems sincere enough as he sees them off with a lazy wave “Hope to be seeing you shop here again.”
Todd isn’t so sure they’ll ever return once upper management hears about this visit, but it’s nice to know they are accepted by at least one individual.
“Now, Todd, let’s get to the food bank. We have such a long day ahead of us. But there’s a reward at the end of it—I bought ingredients specifically for chocolate turtle brownies!”
If the visit to the food bank is in any way similar to this excursion—and it will be, he decides, as yet another gawking driver’s car slow-collides with the corner vending machine when they pass through the automatic doors—they have a long day ahead of them, indeed.