The old woman sat by the television which was switched off, her back supported by a pillow. The guests observed her without blinking and watched for any change in her behaviour. The old woman watched them without blinking, her eyes running from one to the other.
She asked each about their families, their children, their sick parents, their dead grandparents, their estranged siblings and their divorced spouses without any apology. She had always had the authority to ask questions. Now she was as old as she was, her authority had become her right. They replied, as carefully and blushingly and mildly as they could, sometimes keeping their eyes away from each other, sometimes trying to change the topic. The old woman made sure her questions were answered. Sometimes she pointed to the biscuits and asked them to eat.
They left after an hour, their duty as relatives done; they could visit now when she died and speak about how lucid and coherent and healthy she had been at their last visit, despite being so old and withered.
“She has no memory problems,” they said.
“I think the daughter had just made it up. She was asking us all about our families, and the people she had known long ago. She has no problems.”
“I suspect foul play.”
“The daughter doesn’t want to take care of her, it’s the same story with all old parents. Pathetic.”
“But what does spreading stories do? She has to take care of her anyway.”
“Yes, but it will make others think she’s doing a sacrifice.”
“What was that she said something about the girl being locked up?”
“I didn’t get that either. That was after the television was turned on for the news. I couldn’t hear.”
“Yes, me neither. But I thought she said, the girl is locked up and she cries at night to be let out.”
“Which girl might that be?”
“Her own grand-daughter. Who else?”
“I didn’t see the girl anywhere.”
“The daughter said she had gone out.”
“Could be a lie for all we know.”
“Oh, come on.”
“Well, I don’t think the old woman is lying. Why should she?”
“Anyway it was a difficult and unpleasant visit, I am glad it is over.”