1. If you show up to your grandmother’s house on a Sunday afternoon for iced tea and bourbon on the front porch and immediately suspect she’s been replaced by a fairy, the easiest thing to do is ask. Fairies can’t lie, so if she says, Of course, I’m your grandmother; are you drunk already?, you can rest easy. But if she says something like, Why wouldn’t I be your grandmother? or Can you not recognize your own grandmother?, you should proceed to step two.
2. Before you sip the iced tea (you should know better than to eat or drink anything offered by a fairy, grandmother or not), make an excuse to go inside, then visit the kitchen. Your grandmother is an excellent cook; she should have plenty of salt in the house. Grab the Morton’s from the top shelf, above her array of medicines. Grab one of the pill bottles while you’re there. You’ll need it later. But for now, sneak a pinch of salt into your drink. The taste will be ruined, but would you rather have a bad drink or sleep for a hundred years?
If you can slip a dash of salt into her drink, the fairy’s glamour will be broken. If you can’t, move on to step three.
3. Fairies have very little knowledge of the human world. If your grandmother has been replaced, she might be interested in the most mundane details about your life, like the route you took to get to her house, like how much you’re eating and sleeping, like how much you’ve been drinking lately. She’ll ask you again and again, and you’ll have to drink another salted ice tea and bourbon.
Decide if these are normal grandmother questions—how many times are you going to have to tell her you’re still single? It’s time to move to step four.
4. Fairies can’t resist a bargain, a bet, or a wager, so steer the conversation in that direction. For example, you might promise to go on a date with her friend’s grandchild, but only if she could, say, run around the house three times, widdershins, and then touch her nose. A real fairy would leap at this, jumping down from the wraparound porch and sprinting off to complete their end of the bargain, proving that your grandmother’s body is but a glamour and she has the strength and endurance of the fair folk. But, if the fairy is well versed in human trickery, she might chuckle and suggest that you go on that date first, which would mean you have to move to step five.
5. At this point, you know you’re dealing with an incredibly powerful fae. The Gentry are especially terrifying, and to behold their true form is to behold a beautiful nightmare, so you’ll want to stop trying to break that glamour. You don’t want to see her face, lest you fall under her spell. Still, you’re going to want to keep drinking that salted ice tea and bourbon. It will help you resist the fairy’s influence.
Your real grandmother would say something after two drinks. Definitely by the third. But a fairy would have no idea how much bourbon it took to get an adult human grandchild really good and drunk. A fairy would sit there, watching quietly as you refill your glass, again. Again.
If your “grandmother” doesn’t try to stop you, if she allows you to get plastered, then you know there’s something wrong with her.
6. Fairies are obliged to count things. Grains of rice, seeds of barely, all that jazz. Open your grandmother’s pill bottle and dump her expensive heart medication all over the front porch. Watch as the tiny white tablets scatter, rolling away and falling through the small gaps between the worn wooden floorboards. Maybe you could have taken a fistful of lentils from the jar on her counter, but you’re not going to think about that until later, when she’s scrambling on her arthritic knees for those precious white pills, tears rolling down her face as she asks you, Why? Why would you do this? What is wrong with you? You’re going to feel very strange. That’s either actual guilt or fairy magic.
Drink more of the salted tea and bourbon.
What do you feel now?