"When we say, the world owes you nothing," Grandmother Worm weighed the scissors in her hand, "we mean that all of the rules and regulations, the traditions and norms of how we live and how we tell you to live - these do not guarantee success." She drew back the child's long hair. "You can do everything right, do everything you are told, work hard and be honest and faithful, and things can still go wrong. You can get sick," snip "your spouse may be unfaithful" snip "your work can fail." snip.
The steel-eyed woman surveyed her work in the mirror. "Nothing you do guarantees success. Yet you may still be punished for not doing it. Because we are all in this together. No justice." snip.
It was three flights of stairs to the roof. Each step was punctuated by a bony shoulder stabbing into Jim's stomach.
"Here we are then." Jim heard a woman's voice as rough hands set him down, head hanging over the side of the building. There was a slab of concrete there - and an iron rail - what looked like a loading dock.
"Now Jim, I want you to know something. I'm going to throw you off this building. An' what you should be doing, is praying that you die when you hit the ground." The voice leaned down and she whispered in Jim's ear. "Because if you don't, I'm going to carry you back up here and do it again. And again. Until you do. So you pray real hard, Jimmy. Maybe someone up there likes you." Jim felt himself being lifted up. "I sure as hell don't."
"It is an old story," Grandmother Worm said, while brushing her hair. "A girl loved a boy, but the boy loved a woman." Gnarled fingers fussed over a knot. "Youth versus age, innocence versus experience. And a small wrinkled cock in the middle." She sighed, and continued to brush. "A very old story. Energies spent on a struggle over something that wasn't worth fighting for in the first place."
"But you won, right?" Her granddaughter asked.
"I triumphed," she said. "It isn't quite the same thing. When you win, you get what you want. When you triumph, no-one can argue with you because they're all dead. Not really the same thing at all."
"She said...she said I would become like a god."
The fury cradled Jim's head in her hands, and drew her to her breast. "Yes," she said softly, feeling the broken man tremble, tears trickling down her breasts, until they boiled away into steam.
"But you forgot one thing."
The vertebrae didn't snap, as the fury gave a sudden twist, they shattered with a sudden, audible cracking. The fury looked down, not unkindly, at the broken shell she held.
"Even gods die."
"Grandmother," the child asked, ringed about with shorn curls. "Tell me another?"
"Of course, child," Grandmother Worm said. "As many as I have to tell."