Grandma Edith’s Last Laugh

Black and white graveyard, illustration for short horror story

A short horror story

Amy Lowell grinned brightly. Grandma had managed to pull off one last prank. “Edith’s last request,” the priest said with a sigh, “was that we begin the service with her favorite song …the Funky Booty Shake.” He pressed play on a tiny remote control. As the raunchy disco tune filled the air, the members of the Lowell family glanced around the tiny chapel, unsure how to react.

Amy’s boyfriend, Hank, had to bite his cheek to keep from laughing. “Your grandma had a fun sense of humor,” he whispered.

“She sure did,” Amy said quietly. “Sometimes when I was visiting, she would go for a walk at night and not come back until the next morning. If I asked where she went, she would say she had a guest spot at a strip club.”

“That’s hilarious. Did she ever tell you what she was really doing?”

“I figure it was just insomnia, probably from high blood pressure. Blood pressure problems can cause nosebleeds, too. Sometimes when I helped her with laundry, I would find blood on her clothes.”

“Maybe she was a serial killer!” Hank said, laughing into his hand. “She was probably out all night digging holes to bury -” An angry glare from Aunt Rachel stopped him in mid-sentence.

The priest switched off the stereo and tossed the CD in the trash. “Alright, let’s begin…”

The service was simple, with no hymns or poetry readings. Instead, Edith had asked the family to spend the time sharing their favorite stories about her life. Much of them involved her love of nature and hiking through the wilderness, or her ability to judge just how inappropriate a joke had to be to make someone blush. Indeed, as the family retold some of Edith’s favorite ribald humor, the priest’s face grew redder and redder. There were also some mentions of her stargazing hobby, but Aunt Rachel suspected she had only bought a telescope to spy on the neighbors.

As the family filed out of the chapel, Amy took Hank’s hand and they made their way to the front to say one last goodbye. “Farewell, Grandma Edith,” she said. “I hope you’re up in heaven, telling dirty jokes to God.”

“You must be Amy,” the priest said. He reached behind the podium and produced a tattered bankers box. The lid was sealed shut with duct tape. “Edith asked me to give you this. She said it’s a secret just for you.”

“Why wouldn’t she want the family to know?” Amy asked, checking over her shoulder to make sure they were alone. “What’s in it?”

“Hopefully a dictionary,” the priest said, shoving it in her hands, “so you can look up the definition of the word ‘secret.’”

Back at their apartment, Amy and Hank sat on their green, L-shaped sofa with the bankers box between them. Peeling off the tape, she said, “Alright, let’s see what we’ve won!”

“Don’t get too excited,” he said, taking a sip of tea. “It’s probably just the heads of her victims. We’ll have to turn them over to the police, or use them as bookends or something.”

“Stop!” she laughed, sticking the ball of tape to his shirt. “Let’s see… bottles of old lady perfume, gaudy costume jewelry… Eww!”

“What is it? A bloody knife? A lampshade made from human skin?”

She rolled her eyes. “No, but it’s almost as icky. Look!” She tossed something in his lap.

“Oh god!” He jumped up, spilling tea on his pants, and swatted the object fall to the floor. “Gross! I can’t believe you threw a dead person’s dentures at me. You Lowell women think you’re so funny.” He headed for the door to the utility room. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to throw these pants in the wash. Or burn them. Maybe both.”

“Germophobe!” There was one last item in the box: a thick, leather-bound diary. “The big secret she wanted me to know must be somewhere in here. Oh man, four hundred pages! You couldn’t have left a bookmark in here, Grandma?”

After finishing his laundry, Hank went out to run some errands. He returned later that evening, just as the sun was setting, and found Amy still going through the diary. “So, what did you find out? Anything juicy and scandalous?”

“Sadly, no,” she said. “There’s nothing in here but soap opera episode summaries, potato salad recipes, and gripes about my parents. I don’t think Grandma Edith really had a big secret after all. I guess it’s just another one of her jokes.” She packed everything back into the box and put it on the pier table to wait for her next garage sale. It had been a long, exhausting day, so they decided to go to bed early.

The moon slid up over the horizon. The lid of the bankers box popped open. A small object hopped out and landed on the floor. Sitting in the moonlight, Grandma Edith’s dentures seemed to smile. Stretching open slowly, they grew wider, sprouting rows of jagged fangs.

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