“Grandmother?” Janis smelled smoke. Cigarette smoke. “What’s going on in here?”
Janis found Grandmother sitting on an old wood chair in the middle of the room with a cigarette and 1.75L of gin.
Grandmother Mable despised smoking. When Janis experimented, Grandmother had taken her to view the lungs of a smoker. Janis had puked all over the autopsy room.
“I want to go by spontaneous combustion,” said Grandmother.
“You know, spontaneous human combustion. I was reading about it the other day. It seems to happen a lot to old people. Close your mouth, dear. You look like you’re catching flies.”
“It happens a lot?” Janis could do no better than repeat. Clean-living Grandmother. Paragon of wholesome. Cigarettes and gin.
“Yes, well, not too often. I’ve decided I want to make a splash.”
Grandmother rolled her eyes. “Yes. I’ve lived too quietly and there’s not much I can do about it now. But my death? That’s something I can do something about.” Grandmother tapped ash onto the skirt of dress and took a swig of gin.
“But how? I thought it’s… spontaneous.”
“It isn’t. There are always factors in common. Old age, nodding off while drunk, cigarettes that cause the fire. Something about how slowly fat can burn when there isn’t anything to accelerate the fire. But that doesn’t mean that every death by spontaneous combustion isn’t sensational. I’ve decided, dear, that finally I want to be sensational.”
Strangely, Janis couldn’t argue.