Winner of the 2010 WSFA Small Press Award
Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma
by Alex Shvartsman
I just made the deal of the year and I couldn't wait to tell Grandma.
As soon as the customer left, I locked the front door, flipped the cardboard sign to Closed, and
headed into the back. Clutching my latest acquisition to my blouse, I entered the packed
stockroom, dodged around the bronze naval cannon, nearly caught the hem of my skirt on a rusty
suit of armor, and made my way through a plethora of other items too large or too heavy to be
stored on the shelves. Most of this stuff has been here since before I was born, and will likely
remain in the same place long after my hypothetical future children take over the shop. You
never know when the right buyer might come along, and the family is in it for the long haul.
Grandma Heide was in our office, sitting at the desk. She had moved the keyboard out of the
way to make room for the game of solitaire she was playing with a Thirteenth century Egyptian
Tarot deck. She barely glanced up when I walked in.
"You do know you could play this on the computer, right Grandma?"
She set down a card in one of the columns after a few seconds' thought. "Can your newfangled
gadget fake the feel of shuffling a dog-eared deck of cards? Simulate the pleasure of placing one
in just the right spot to make a perfect play? I didn't think so." She looked at me over her
glasses. "The old ways are almost always best."
"Yes, well, I'm not here to argue about that again. Guess what I just picked up on pawn."
I stepped closer and placed a pocket dimension in front of Grandma. It looked like a pyramid-shaped snow globe the height of a soda can. It was filled with ocean water. In the center floated a
being of scales and tentacles and shapes so unnatural that staring straight at it caused a headache.
When not stored outside of our space/time continuum, it was the size of a cruise liner and must
have weighed as much as a small mountain, which is what made pocket dimensions so darn
Grandma picked up the pyramid, pushed the glasses up her nose and peered inside.
"What is this?" she asked.
"Cthulhu," I said, smug with satisfaction.