Saturday, June 21, 2008

Faint (Short Story)

This is a short short story I wrote a while ago about an experience Jess and I had with Grandpa shortly after learning about the onset of his Parkinson's.


Faint

First, the hip replacement. Then, the quadruple valve bypass.

Now this.

The tremors are barely noticeable as he lifts his spoon from the bowl of lukewarm stew to his mouth. He chews the potatoes loosely and lets them slip down his throat. After setting the spoon next to his bowl, he reaches for the towel bibbed around his shoulders and chest and, with a careful sweep, cleans his lips.

Blinking through his heavy glasses, he looks at his grandson and his grandson’s wife and says, “The roof’s got a leak in it.” His shoulders fall against the high-backed chair and he runs his fingers along the edge of the plastic tray holding his dinner. It wavers at their touch. He looks down. “Just one more thing to add to the list.”

The younger man’s mind wanders across his grandpa’s face, tracing the years into weary eyes. “Well, Someone must think your shoulders are pretty broad.”

A smile cracks the old man’s lips. He laughs. Or sighs.

“We’ll have to get the grandkids together and have a roof fixing party,” the grandson’s wife says from the kitchen counter. She hops off of her stool and wraps her arm around the old man, reassuring his shoulder with her hand. “You’ve got plenty of able bodies around.”

He rises proudly in his chair, then sinks back down, unwilling to impose, and fingers the bowl. It jiggles uneasily. “Maybe we’ll just have to wait.”

She looks to her husband, then to the reluctant man. “No. We’ll have to get everyone together to come fix it before winter hits. We don’t want the snow to fill your house.” She steps to her husband’s side. “We’ll all come help.”

The old man swallows her words slowly. Then, very deliberately—as if praying—he looks up and says, “It won’t be a bad winter though.”

He steadies his hand and reaches for his pills.