Vigilante Granny

Vigilante Granny –  A Thanksgiving Story

Sometimes the life you save, can be your grandson’s. This is something I learned when I was about to turn fifteen years old and wanted to be grown. It was something my grandfather learned too. Though, we never talk about all that, unless we are alone; like when I bring him home  for Thanksgiving dinner or when I take him back to the retirement home with a couple of slices of mom’s pumpkin pie hidden in his coat pocket.

“For later,” he always says, with a tear-filled wink as he goes about concealing enough pie and sliced turkey for him and his roommate to snack on for a few days. Everyone at the retirement home is on a heart healthy diet which makes mom’s cooking something special.

“Even criminal,” he always adds with another wink waiting for me to bring up the Vigilante Granny. My grandpa claims it was really the Vigilante Granny who saved me. We both know better.

It all started when I fell in with the wrong bunch of boys. My dad worked for the police department; and I wanted something different for myself — something more exciting than directing traffic and writing speeding tickets. Plain and simple, I wanted to be an outlaw;  but kept this to myself unless I was with my friends.

There was something about smashing windows, stealing cars, and shoplifting that sounded like fun, even though, I was an honor student and sang in the church choir.

As we walked home in the shadows of those  junior high school sunsets, I would tell of my criminal activity which always made my friends laugh. There’s no way that my turning over the neighbor’s trashcan could compare to my friend’s tales of their five finger discounts at the jewelry store or slashing some old lady’s tires.

I wanted to fit in. I guess that was why I decided to go for bad in late November, just before my birthday. There was no way I could turn fifteen without a record; so I made a plan — I would snatch a purse.

There were plenty of old women dragging pocketbooks around our town. It would be easy enough. Then, I would be one of the YoungFellas. That’s what my friends began calling the little gang they were forming. They might even make me a member after I showed them the treasures I imagined would be in the big pocketbook heisted.

As I plotted and planned, I imagined that such a bold feat might just land me a leadership role in the gang. In the end, all of my plotting and planning only landed me in jail, scared, embarrassed, and waiting for my dad to come bail me out. I wasn’t alone either, which made it worse.

There sitting beside me, on the wiry bunk of that shadowy cell, was my grandfather, just as scared and embarrassed as me, but only worse. He was wearing a dress. It was one of my grandmother’s dresses; and it wouldn’t have looked too bad on him, if he hadn’t lost his wig.

There is just something about a very old man as bald as a baseball, wearing a dress, that will give one pause. He was wearing his combat boots too. That was how I knew it was him, when we got into our scuffle. I would recognize those boots anywhere, day or night; even under the burned out lights by the War Memorial where he caught up with me.

My grandpa was a retired Marine, who never gave up the habit of making sure his boots were as shiny as his head, slick as a bowling ball.

The problem was, I didn’t see his shiny combat boots until after I snatched the big, heavy purse he lugged.

How was I to know he was the Vigilante Granny? He looked just like the dozens of other old women creeping along, all frail and thin and helpless in the November night air.

Out buying Christmas presents, I remember thinking, already counting my take as I watched them hobble past from where I hid in the bushes.

It never occurred to me that my grandma had a peach colored dress covered in flowers like the one my victim was wearing, until I looked over my shoulder and discovered I was being chased.

I saw my grandma wear that dress a dozen Sundays, but always in the spring, never in the winter. Whoever chased me that night didn’t have my grandma’s  fashion sense but man could they run.

Without a backup plan, this became a problem after I ran block after block, feeling like the victim.

I dropped the pocketbook, pretty sure that would satisfy the blood thirsty sneer which took over the familiar looking face now gaining on me. It didn’t.

It wasn’t the purse they wanted. It was me, and from the looks of things, they weren’t giving up until they throttled and thrashed me.

Along about the funeral home, I realized I was to be the next victim of the Vigilante Granny. This  gave me a new burst of energy, but in the end it wasn’t enough. She caught me just as I passed the War Memorial; her favorite place to seek justice and retribution.  There among the statues of real fighting men and women,  this local super hero became judge and jury.

Until that night, all I  knew of the Vigilante Granny was what I learned from the local News at Six. Rumor had it, that she traveled by night, always alone, waiting, watching, and luring out purse snatchers and hood rats.

With Old Glory flapping in the spot light above, she would bring unsuspecting thugs and hoodlums to justice and teach them a thing or two about picking on old people.

Afterwards, a master of disguise, she would vanish into thin air. There was talk all over town, about how she carried nunchucks and was part Ninja, even though she sometimes might be using walker or traveling by wheel chair.

Until that night I took the Vigilante Granny as seriously as the Tooth Fairy and  BigFoot — just make believe.

I was wrong; and I knew I was wrong when a big set of hands clamped down on my shoulder and spun me around. In no time, we were on the sidewalk thrashing about before rolling into the shrubs. It was there, that I discovered that this wrinkly old fiend wore my grandpa’s combat boots and aftershave with a hint of my grandma’s lilac water.

It was dreamlike as the world swirled around. As luck would have it, my little bandanna mask slipped off, and my grandpa recognized me. By then, his wig worked its way down to his shoulders and I recognized him, too. Even through his makeup, lip stick smeared and rouge running with sweat, I made out his whiskery jaw line. I could tell it was him.

The arresting officer charged us with disturbing the peace. Someone reported us fighting. Dad just shook his head and never asked either of us any questions. This surprised me, and went a long way to making me feel more like a man than stealing purses and slashing tires. He did make us spend the night in lockup. It was a small price to pay, I suppose, for my yearning to be an outlaw.

My grandpa didn’t seem to mind though, and we still talk about that night: sitting on the old wiry cot, nursing our scrapes and bruises while waiting for morning and a chance to go home to a Thanksgiving dinner like only my grandma could make. She was still alive back then.

I don’t know if my grandpa ever told my grandma about him borrowing her dress and becoming the Vigilante Granny. Somehow, I think, like me, he kept that to himself.

That Thanksgiving eve was the last time Vigilante Granny was ever seen. After saving me from a life of crime, my grandpa decided her work was done and returned my grandmother’s peach colored dress covered with flowers back to its place in her closet; where it waited for springtime and Sundays.


This is a work of fiction dedicated to the real Vigilante Grannies of the world, and grandpas too.  -Edward Reed Copyright 2019