What follows is fiction and my first attempt at this. Any feedback would be much appreciated. I hope you enjoy.
Dismissal from the Heart
I had been brusquely dismissed from the barbecue by my Uncle and Father who I now watched chatting happily, sweating over the sizzling meat, laughing as they enjoyed their seldom renewed comradery. My crime? I watched her now, my eleven year old cousin; three years younger than I, gleefully conspiring with my own sibling. Her pudgy features joyfully animated as they doubtless planned their afternoon’s next mischief, cheeks that had been streaked with crocodile tears only moments before now glowed. She met my eye and smiled, smug in victory.
I had been sucking down some of my first beers with my Dad and Uncle Jack, revelling in my new enrolment into the adult world. I had begun to learn the finer points of grilling, a skill more refined than I had ever imagined, no art form was more esteemed we were masters of the food chain controllers of supply on a day of demand. Bantering heartily with all who enquired as to the readiness of a lamb chop or complemented a sausage. Emboldened by the alcohol and following my Father’s lead I had taunted dear cousin Ellie who had promptly burst into tears blaming me, ensuring my exile.
Disgruntled I sat alone dazed by the alcohol, or the rare heat of that British summer day, or perhaps some perverse combination of the two. Dispassionately I plucked at the parched brown grass lost in thought recalling the injustice of my punishment, plotting increasingly whimsical revenge, far-fetched scenarios each seeing me restored to the heart of the gathering, applauded by all whilst sweet Ellie was scorned.
“Come sit with your Grandpa, Jack.” The friendly command came from a solitary bench shaded by a gnarled willow, it surprised me. I obeyed.
“How are you Grandpa?” I enquired. My Grandpa had not been well these last months he had shrunk, shrivelled and slowed, duller in wit, reduced in movement. He was less, which was why I was taken aback by his summons, he seldom spoke. Usually when he did it was in seeking aid for a need he could no longer fulfil alone.
“Oh much better thank-you my boy,” he said affectionately. It was true he appeared better although, his limbs were as withered as ever, his jowls as sagged as his hair was sparse. The fog seemed to have cleared from his eyes, he seemed more alive. I was pleased, we had been close and though I did not understand fully at the time his decline had taken its toll on me.
“Your medicine is working then?”
“In a way,” he smiled knowingly “I’m yet to take it today.”
“Aren’t you in pain Grandpa?” I replied concerned. Again the corners of his lips turned up into a smile and the crow’s feet around his twinkling eyes narrowed as he chuckled.
“Only when I move.”
“I can get you a glass of water to take it with,” here it was, the need he could not fulfil, the service he required.
“No need,” he replied gesturing to a tumbler filled with a dark spirit. “Come on take a seat,” he patted the seat next to him on the bench. I complied and sat.
“You aren’t supposed to drink on your medication Grandpa,” I chided.
“So I won’t take it,” today my worry seemed to be a great source of amusement to him as he chuckled warmly. “Come on tell me what happened,” he continued, changing the subject.
Readily I recounted my story to him in all its injustice, laying bare my cousin’s treachery, my Uncle’s harshness and my Father’s inaction. All I told.
“He called me a Drunken Lout,” my voice cracked as my story tailed into nothing.
“And are you a Drunken Lout?” He enquired gently. Perhaps I was drunk I was not sure, I had not drunk this much before, I felt slightly dazed admittedly. I confessed this to him.
“I wouldn’t worry my boy, you may be drunk and you may have been loutish but being anything requires consistency and if you are unsure what it is to be drunk then you are no drunkard. What’s more as one who has known you all your life I have never thought you loutish.”
I returned his smile weakly in reply. I felt a lot better. We lapsed into silence for a while contentedly watching our family from the outskirts of the group.
“Why haven’t you taken your medicine Grandpa?” I asked. He considered a while before answering and when he did his voice was soft, his words slow.
“There are worse things than the pain son. This morning when I woke I had a choice, either painful reality or blissful fantasy. Had I taken my pills I doubt we’d be having this conversation there would be drool at my mouth, emptiness in my mind, I would sit here in a stupor. So yes I have pain but I also have myself, I have things to do, I have the sun on my skin, the whisky in my glass, today I enjoy time with my family. Tomorrow I have no plans, there is no need for myself tomorrow. Tomorrow I will sit amongst the other undead in peaceful melancholy.”
“The undead?” I queried. It was the only thing I could ask, his speech had left me speechless, almost. He was tragic yet not unhappy, he was resigned to the way things would be.
“The others at the nursing home, those who have run the race but not yet found the finishing line” He laughed as he concluded, the warm smile he had worn for most of our conversation returned.
We sat there together as the day wore on and shadows lengthened, chatting inconsequentially about memories and other happy little nothings. Before relapsing into a contended silence.
“Go back to them,” he prompted gently after some moments of contemplation.
“Come with me Grandpa,” I requested.
“No thank-you son, I’m tired; you go. I’m happy to watch from here, my time at the heart of things is done.”
My Grandpa died that winter. He passed peacefully in the end following a year of steady decline. That was not the last time I spoke to him but it was certainly our last two-sided conversation, I’m glad we had it. I did not tell him I loved him in that instance but I did before his eventual death.
The Prompt Word will be given the First Tuesday of Every Month.
Post your story by the 30th of the Same Month.
1000 words max (give or take a few)
fictional tale (or true if you really want)
Any genre that fits within PG-13 (or less) Content – let’s keep this family friendly!
Your story must contain the randomly chosen word(s) and/or be centered around the word meaning in a way that shows it is clearly related.
Go for the entertainment value!
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