Pamela had only seen her grandma for Christmases, birthdays and that one time when her older brother had graduated high school before heading off to university. They never had much to say to each other, but the thought of spending the entire weekend in the house with her mother just infuriated her. So Pamela decided to usurp her father’s monthly duty and, for once, made the train trip out of town to visit her grandma. She brought with her the simple fruit cake she had made the night before and a curt letter penned by her father (why pay for postage when he had already forked out for a train fare?).
Pamela found the tidy house easily enough, but no one answered when she knocked. She knocked again. And again.
“Grandma?” she called.
“‘Round the back, love!”
Grandma Nelly was lounging outside enjoying her cigarette and a cup of tea. The smoke riled Pamela’s sensitive throat and she barely covered her mouth before the coughing started.
“If that was enough to set you off, what did you expect to happen if you made it to that rock’n’roll garbage?” Grandma Nelly asked without opening her eyes. “The water is on the table.”
Pamela dropped her bags, gratefully poured herself a drink, and positioned herself upwind. “Did Father tell you?”
Grandma Nelly broke out in laughter. “I read the news! The Beatles stopped Adelaide, or didn’t you notice?”
She didn’t answer that. Pamela didn’t appreciate being mocked.
“Don’t go all sour on me, girl. I knew there could only be one reason it’s you who’s shown up and not your father. So tell me.” She finally brought herself up to look Pamela in the eye. “How were you planning to get there, and how were you caught?”
Pamela hadn’t intended to talk about it, but something in her grandma’s eye made her think she had gotten a sympathetic ear. “I wagged school to camp outside the ticket booth. Mum found me yesterday morning.”
“Did you get the tickets?”
Pamela shook her head. “Mum got me before it opened.”
“Shame. So close.” Grandma Nelly blew out a smoke ring. “How old are you now? Sixteen?”
“You were there for my birthday,” Pamela replied, a little put out.
“I’ve been around for lots of birthdays, sweetheart. Or hadn’t you noticed?”
Pamela had the good sense to be embarrassed, even if she hadn’t the good sense to know why.
“My fool of a son was already off on the town at your age,” Grandma Nelly said ruefully. “That’s when he first met your mother. When I found out, I didn’t simply send him away to his grandmother, oh no. I made him an orderly at the maternity hospital I was working. That soon sorted him out.”
Both the low afternoon sun and the tobacco smoke was giving Pamela a headache. “Found out about what?” she asked.
“That they were rooting, of course.”
Pamela started coughing again.
“Here, have some tea.”
Pamela gratefully drank down the warmish liquid offered to her. Only when she had finished did she realise there was something else in there.
“Grandma,” she gasped. “Have you put rum in your tea?!”
“How dare you! That was a fine thirty year old whisky, that was!”
Pamela stared at her cup.
“Come, I’ll show you your room so you can get settled. Then we’ll see if we can’t get you all riled up again.”