Sharon’s note: This was a story I started writing for a contest. I decided it didn’t really work, but I still liked it, so here it is in two parts. Warning: Not my best work, but I enjoyed it.
I never liked Grandpa’s cabin. It was so much like the old man. Everything creaked and sagged. No matter how much you cleaned, it always smelled like shit and death.
No. I shouldn’t think like that. I wouldn’t smell like a rose when I got to his age. Hell, if I got to his age. Ninety-six years old. Hell, it was hard to contemplate living that long.
“Hey Jimmy.” Tamera waved from the front porch as I lugged my things from the car. She had a small suitcase leaning against her leg and she was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. I’d never seen her out of scrubs. Her southern drawl was more pronounced than usual, and her foot tapped against the old boards. “You sure you got this? He’s been kinda fussy the last couple days. I could stay.”
“You were the one who requested the time off, remember?” I raised an eyebrow at her, and she groaned.
“Only because Mama said she’d disown me if I didn’t go to my sister’s wedding.” She shuddered. “I’d kill for an excuse not to go. Lissa’s gone full-on bridezilla and at some point during the weekend I’m going to end up strangling her.”
I hefted my bag. “Well, call me if you need bail.”
She laughed. “I’ll do that. Now, I’ve got all the important numbers-”
“And I’ve got the five pages of instructions you emailed me. Go. Drive safe.” I made a shooing motion. Tamera was a sweetheart and a natural caretaker, but she needed to relax.
She shuffled off towards her car, and I went inside. The disgusting but familiar smell filled my nose. Someone had tried to cover it up, but you just couldn’t hide death with lemon cleaner.
I dropped my bags next to the couch. I’d sleep there for the weekend, since I didn’t want to invade Tamera’s room. Next, I looked in on Grandpa. I’d expected him to be asleep, but he was sitting up in bed, watching the small TV in the corner and moving his mouth like he was chewing. I never knew why he did that. He hadn’t had teeth in a decade.
“Hey, Grandpa. How are you doing?” I didn’t expect a response, and I didn’t get one. He didn’t look away from the screen, and just kept chewing. I sat at the end of his bed and his eyes slowly drifted over to me. The chewing stopped, and he stared at me, his brow wrinkling slightly in concentration. I put a hand on the covers over his foot, and it felt more like a bundle of sticks than flesh. “Do you remember me?”
He didn’t answer. He only looked back at the TV. Yeah. That was about what I had expected. He didn’t recognize me. I didn’t know if it was comforting or sad that it no longer hurt. Honestly, I wasn’t sure there was anything left of the man I knew.
I wasn’t sure when I fell asleep on the couch, but I jolted awake to the sound of breaking glass. Someone was keening. Grandpa. Shit. I was on my feet and down the hall before I could think.