Amazing Grace by Dennis Stein


My granddaughter is very gifted already, but in a very strange way…

I always said that when the kids grew up, had moved out, that it would be ‘zen-like’, I could visit with them and any subsequent grandchildren at my discretion, sending the young ones off along with their parents to head home with a sudden, giant yawn indicating that it was my bedtime.

Yes, spoil them and then send them, bursting with sugar-fed energy, back into the arms of their parents. Wishing them all luck surviving the rest of the evening as I went off to watch a movie in bed before drifting off.

But it all changed in the end. My wife and I were planning on travelling extensively once we freed ourselves from the daily grind of our careers. But health issues for her, and financial woes for me made us revise our plans. I never envisioned or entertained the idea of babysitting, always saying that we had done our tour of duty raising our own children.

But times change, and I had become restless in the day to day, nothing-to-do routine of our retirement.

In addition, the world had become a much harder place to afford than when my wife and I were young, and I truly worried about our children’s welfare. If we could help them get their feet financially under them, we had decided that we definitely would, which was to be achieved by becoming daycare.

So here I sat, at the kitchen island, my two year-old granddaughter across from me, happily grabbing handfuls of cheerios out of a bowl in her high chair as I read my morning news on the small screen in front of me, periodically siphoning off small sips of coffee from a mug emblazoned with my former employer’s logo.

A light rain was falling outside, and the kitchen window was dotted with droplets, along with the condensation that a spring rain brought with it.

A soft sound from the cabinetry behind me abruptly stopped my reading, and I turned to see that the cutlery drawer was open a bit. Strange. I remembered grabbing a spoon from it to stir milk into my hot coffee, but my mind insisted on the fact that I had closed it completely when finished.

Leaning back at a precarious angle so as not to have to actually get out of my chair, I was able to brush my fingers against the drawer, sliding it shut with a slight ‘fump’.

As I returned to the article on my phone, I glanced up at my blonde-haired, brown-eyed granddaughter, who was staring at me, almost trance-like. I thought it very strange, and caught myself frowning. She was sitting silent and still, which she never did, with eyes that were dreamy.

“Grace,” I said softly. “Are you not going to eat your cereal?”

The words finally seemed to penetrate her distant gaze, and she giggled at me, resuming her grabs at the cheerios as if being ‘un-paused’.

I was unsettled a bit, and I thought that she might be able to tell, because she gave me the occasional glance with her best innocent expression, like she had just done something she might get a scolding for.

I smiled at her, shaking my head slightly. “You are quite a silly girl today!” I said.

Although I resumed reading my article, I didn’t absorb much of it, instead focusing at least half my attention on Grace’s babbles and Cheerio play.

I peeked up from my news for a moment to look at her, and dropped the phone onto the hard wooden surface on the table as my breath froze.

The phone startled both of us, and Grace jumped as much as I did, her smile disappearing with the sudden shock. For a second, I thought she was going to begin to cry.

I exhaled, trying to tell myself that I had not seen it. That it was some sort of visual lapse caused simply by growing older.

Grace’s big, beautiful brown eyes had for a moment been nothing but pools of blackness, devoid of irises as she sat playing with her cereal. But she really hadn’t been playing with it. She had been staring into it, stirring it.

Gooseflesh rippled along my arms, even though it was the middle of summer, and I had famously declared that fans would do just as well as an air conditioner.

The moment, whatever it was, disappeared. I was once again looking at her. My granddaughter. Blonde hair. Dark brown eyes.

She looked at me as though I was being strange with her. There was nothing that I could see that would then make me think that there had been anything wrong.

But there was something there. Something knocking on my mind, demanding that I open that door. To acknowledge.

The room had become darker suddenly, and I glanced out the kitchen window. It was that feeling you get when you are occupied with something—perhaps a meal you are preparing, some menial task, and a cloud passes over, blocking the sun, making you notice the sudden change in light.

Had she done it? The drawer?

I thought about the times that certain things had come to me, just a glimpse, of something ahead. Deja vu, is what they call it. A premonition.

What about the times that I had been sitting at a traffic light, willing it to turn green so that I could proceed with whatever I was doing, wherever I was going. Maybe my concentration on it had helped?

Was Grace doing something like this?

I went back to my phone as she continued to eat her cereal happily, shoving the thought aside. What nonsense. I could hear the conversation unfold when my wife arrived home:

‘So, what have you two been up to this morning?’

‘Oh, not much, just so happens that Gracie can move things with her mind!’

Yes, that would go over well; she would be scheduling me for a psychiatric evaluation within minutes. I felt myself flush slightly with embarrassment as I tried to focus on the news article in front of me.

There was another sound behind me, somewhere on the kitchen counter. The clouds must have thickened in the sky overhead, because the room darkened suddenly again.

I turned. The sky was indeed dark. Rain began to pour down harder. I glanced over at the kitchen counter and froze.

The knife block, normally armed with our stainless steel knife set, was devoid of any cutlery at all. I squinted at it, trying to make sense of what I was seeing. Where could they have gone?

I usually did the dishes each night after dinner, and we had eaten a simple spaghetti last night, no knives required.

Grace let out a giggle again, and I turned towards her.

Her eyes were black pools of nothingness, her mouth open in a strange smiling laugh as she gazed upward dreamily at the ceiling.

I followed her gaze, my heart beating heavier in my chest. Blood pounded my ears and my breath caught in my throat at the sight above.

Floating in a perfect circle orbiting the ceiling fan, was every knife from the knife block, revolving, one after the other, tip to tail. As I watched, the knives, still circling the fan above, began to move faster, their glinting blades flashing in the muted daylight of the kitchen.

Grace practically cackled with delight, clapping her hands merrily as her dark eyes remained fixed on the scene above us.

I dared not reach up to try to take the knives out of the air, as they were spinning too quickly.

“Grace, can you put those away?” I asked her as calmly as I could manage, conscious that my voice was shaky.

She looked at me, those pools of blackness pulling me into them.

“Pa!” she exclaimed, reaching out towards me with tiny hands encrusted with cereal dust. That strange, twisted smile was still on her face.

I looked up again. The knives had stopped circling abruptly, interrupted in their flight.

“Papa!” Grace screamed, as I watched in horror, each of the knives turning to point tip-first at me.

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