The Growing

by Alyssa Asquith

Grandma’s pain started down in her hip. It started there, and it’s stayed for a while, and it’s only gotten worse and worse, while it’s stayed.

“She’s lucky it’s just her hip,” Dad says. “At her age.”

I don’t know if Grandma’s really lucky, but she’s not the only one with pains. Lately, I’ve got pains of my own, in my legs.

“Growing pains,” Dad says, when I tell him. “Perfectly normal, at your age.” He’s got his pains, too — I’m sure of it. But we don’t talk about those.


Now, Grandma’s pained hip is growing a lump.

It’s a soft lump, instead of a hard lump, which is a good thing, apparently.

“It’s the hard ones you’ve got to worry about,” Dad says.

Grandma shows me the lump. When I look, I can see four long creases running down it, straight lines, each with a half-inch between them.

“It’s a hand,” I say.

“What?” Dad says.

I make a fist. Grandma gives a long sigh.

“That’s just what I need,” she says.


Already, Grandma’s hand has grown a whole arm with it, which sticks about eight inches out.

“Some people don’t even have two arms, you know,” Dad tells Grandma, to make her feel better.

“Some people don’t even have one,” I say.

“That’s right,” Dad says. “Some people don’t.”

Later, when Grandma’s not around to hear, Dad asks if I think she looks different.

“Different how?” I ask.

“Taller,” he says. “Bigger.”

I think about it.

“Maybe bigger,” I say.

He nods.

“Me too,” he says. “I think so.”


As if Grandma didn’t have enough to deal with, there’s a new lump now, on her knee. It’s soft, like the last one, but less round this time. Instead, it’s long and square, like a bar of soap.

“Does it ache?” I ask her.

“Worse,” she says.

I think Dad’s right about Grandma’s growing. Not too long ago, I had a few inches on her — at least three or four, from what I can remember — but now she seems to have pulled out ahead, and by a good foot or two, at least. In the hallways, she walks with her neck and legs bent, and her three arms pulled in, close to her. More than once, she’s stood up in her bedroom downstairs and banged her head on the ceiling. 


To give her more room, Dad and I move Grandma’s bed to the garage.

“It’s too small,” Grandma complains, the next morning, when we come in to see her.

Dad bends down beside her, on the garage floor, and puts an ice pack to her knee. The lump on that knee, we found out last night, is growing a heel, and toes.

“It’s the biggest we have,” Dad says. “We can open the doors.”

Grandma waves a hand.

“You’re overthinking things,” she tells him. “Just put my bed out in the woods.”

Grandma always loved the woods. When she was younger, and still in her prime, she used to take long walks through them, in the mornings, sometimes with me sitting up on her shoulders, riding along, watching the sky.

But Dad won’t put her bed in the woods.

“No mother of mine is sleeping out in the woods,” he tells her. “No mother of mine.”


Lately, it seems like new arms and legs are popping up on Grandma like freckles. Some are thin, like broomstick handles; some are thick, like tree trunks. Most have five toes, or five fingers. Some have more. All ache.

She doesn’t use them much, those new arms and legs. She doesn’t use her old ones much, either. These days, she mostly just lies there still, with what fits of her out on the mattress, and the rest of her crammed in the corners and ceilings, overlapping and bent.

“All I want is to be my old self again,” she tells me, while I’m squeezed in beside her, icing a new lump on her neck. “That’s all I want.”

“You’re still your old self,” I say.

Really, I want to say something else — that I wish she was her old self, too, or we both were — but it doesn’t seem right, so I don’t.


I don’t know how, but Grandma’s still growing.

At night, her moans shake the walls and the floors, like the whole house is hurting with her.

Some nights, I can feel my own growing, too, just burning there, down in my shins.


One night, I wake to a great splintering sound, like an old tree falling in a storm.

I find Dad outside, standing in the driveway, staring up at where the garage used to be. All that’s left of it, besides bits of wood and glass, is the gray cement floor, and an empty mattress.

“Where’s Grandma?” I ask.

Dad doesn’t answer. I guess I don’t need him to.


I know she’s still out there. Sometimes, at night, when the moon is full, I can see her moving in the dark above the woods, her arms and legs swinging high over the trees.


Dad spends most of his winter up on the house, building back the garage. I spend it standing up on a ladder, passing him tools and nails, back and forth.

In spring, he falls off the house and breaks his leg. I carry him to and from his bedroom, downstairs and upstairs, for dinner and breakfast.

“Lucky it’s just my leg,” he says. “Could be worse. At my age.”

In summer, Dad moves down to Grandma’s old bedroom, where the stairs won’t trouble him. We pack her things up in paper bags and boxes. I grow two more inches, then stop growing for good.

Alyssa Asquith’s stories have appeared or will appear in NEON, The Adroit Journal, Atticus Review, X-R-A-Y, Hobart, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and writes standardized tests for a living.
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