Little Al was a curious boy who was always writing and drawing at his grandma’s. One day he offered a prayer to God about it before going to sleep between his grandma and grandpa.
“Please, God, if you could just let me draw Bugs Bunny tomorrow, I will do anything you ask me to.”
He was a very talented youngster, but artiste-extraordinaire like his grandmother he was not. She could draw Bugs Bunny and paint it in a day and give it to him for a present, like that time when Al sweated all day wondering how he was going to ask his grandmother if she could paint him that dinosaur he cut out of a magazine. Dinosaurs were something else the imaginative boy loved and he finally decided to write a note to his grandmother asking her.
“Of course, I can, sweetheart,” his grandmother said to him. “You wasn’t scared to ask your old Ma-Maw to paint you this dinosaur, were you?”
“No, Ma-Maw, I wasn’t. I just, I don’t know.”
His Ma-Maw smiled and gave him a big hug and told him he’d have his dinosaur by the end of the week.
“If you too busy doing other things, I understand,” little Al said. “I could paint it instead.”
“Never too busy for you, my love.”
Well, this time, he wasn’t going to live an entire day in fear of asking his Ma-Maw to do another painting for him. He was just going to come right out and ask God to let him draw Bugs Bunny tomorrow if God wasn’t too busy. Ma-Maw prayed all the time so maybe that’s why she was able to paint cool things like dinosaurs.
Al tried his best to draw Bugs Bunny and he even asked God for help again, but all that came out was a paper full of erasure marks. He finally threw it away. Despite God’s refusal to let him draw Bugs Bunny, later that night Al was praying for something else-that his cousin Bridget wouldn’t put a cockroach in his mouth when he fell asleep. She had told him many, many stories about Bloody Mary in the mirror and Lawrence under the bed that scared him half to death. Now she was scaring him all the way to death by telling him he better not fall asleep or else she was going to put a cockroach in his mouth. He couldn’t have cared less about God’s inability to let him draw Bugs Bunny earlier; he would have gladly met face-to-face Lawrence and Bloody Mary both if he could just sleep in peace tonight with no bugs being put in his mouth.
“Don’t fall asleep,” she had said as they lay in the big queen-size bed and before Ma-Maw joined them. Pa-Paw had already fallen asleep in the living room recliner. “As soon as your mouth opens I’m gone put a roach in it.”
Al’s momma had told him one time that she’d accidentally eaten a roach when she was a kid. Knowing that made it possible for him to eat one, he knew. The lights were out now and Ma-Maw had lay down. Al wanted to toss and turn but didn’t because he was too afraid to move the bed with his Ma-Maw next to him. He sighed at the long night ahead. He had to do something.
So he started crying. Bridget was pinching him under the covers warning him to stop.
“What’s wrong, my baby?” Ma-Maw asked him.
“Can’t sleep. Ma-Maw.” He summoned his courage. “Hey, Ma-Maw?”
“What’s that, my love?”
“Does my mouth open when I sleep?”
The lamp was on in an instant and Al looked up at his grandmother smiling. She didn’t have any teeth. Al started crying even more.
“See, Al,” Bridget said, alluding to their grandmother’s gums. “That’s what will happen to your teeth if you go to sleep tonight.”
“Bridget, you didn’t tell Al you was gonna put a cockroach in his mouth, did you?”
Bridget laughed so Al felt it was okay to laugh too. But he didn’t know what he was laughing at.
“You are terrible!” Ma-Maw said to Bridget.
“My baby,” Ma-Maw said, now holding Al close to her. “Don’t listen to Bridget. She’s not gonna put a roach in your mouth.” She squeezed him. “And you never seen your Ma-Maw without her teeth in, huh, baby? Awwww, sweet ba-ba. That comes with age, not bugs.”
She rocked him and he heard Bridget laughing into her pillow. “You terrible,” Ma-Maw said to her again. Al almost asked her how old he would be when he lost all of his teeth, but he decided not to. Now his problem was that he didn’t know what to think about, the cockroach or his Ma-Maw’s gums.
“Just go to sleep, my baby,” Ma-Maw said, and he could hear the change in her voice now, her mouth teethless. “Ma-Maw’s gonna make y’all a big breakfast tomorrow. How’s that sound?”
Good. But I don’t think Bridget should be able to eat any.
It’s amazing what grandmas know, he thought. And how they can take out their teeth when they want to. And how awesome their food always is.
But they can’t do anything to meanie cousins who might put bugs in your mouth. Al finally did fall asleep that night, asking God that his cousin would fall asleep first, a firm pillow tucked tightly under his chin.