Sunday, September 13, 2009

Grandpa's Last Blast

**Editor's Note** This is some short fiction for my buddy Cormac Brown. If you don't read his stuff, you are missing out.

"Lord, stop me before I date again!" Grandpa shouted into the cool, gathering dusk from the truck window as he and Billy rattled down the dirt road.

"I wouldn't lean too hard on that door Grandpa. It's libel to swing open and toss you into the ditch," Billy warned. Grandpa ignored him and took a deep breath and exhaled loudly.

"Let me tell you somethin' boy. A man is dumber than the dumbest jackass that ever walked this earth. You know why?" Billy knew better than to answer and just kept his eyes on the road ahead. "He's dumber because he keeps makin' the same stupid mistakes again and again. Take me for example. I'm a little smarter than your average Johnny-off-the-pickle-boat but even wit' that goin' fer me, if I staid one more night in that hospital, I woulda made the second worst mistake in my life. I would have gone down to the TV room and proposed to that widow woman with the long gray hair and I'da had her for my wife, and then where would I be?" Grandpa just shook his head at the thought.

"What was the worst mistake you ever made?" Billy asked.

"Gettin' a tattoo," Grandpa said with a sour face.

"I didn't know you had a tattoo," Billy grinned at him.

"There is a lot of things about me you don't know boy, and several I aim to keep that way," Grandpa said. "Did you bring the stuff like I asked ya?"

"Sure. I got everything, just like you said, but what do you need all of it for?" Billy asked.

"Never you mind son. I got plans. Where did you stow the smokes and the hooch?" Grandpa asked with a gleam in his eye.

"They're in a paper sack under your seat but I don't think-" Billy started.

"That's right! You don't think!" the old man snapped and then he caught himself, "I'm sorry son. I didn't mean it. I just been pumped full of so many chemicals and pills that I got nothin' in me but bile, but even still, that ain't no way to treat you. I'm sorry. I'm powerful sorry." Grandpa choked up a little bit and pulled out his red hanky, then blew his nose loudly. Then he leaned down between his withered legs and tugged a brown paper sack from under the seat and pulled a large bottle of Jack Daniels out of it. "You are a good boy," he muttered as he spun the cap off in a well practiced move, "you even bought the big bottle, God bless your heart!" Grandpa tipped back the bottle and the brown liquid slid down his throat. He grimaced as he exhaled. "Just like an ol' friend," he muttered as his drink settled in. He opened a pack of filterless cigarettes, lit one and took a puff.

"Grandpa, that can't be good for you..." Billy mildly protested.

The old man took a drag and looked him in the eye, "Boy, I been enjoying a belt and a smoke for a long time before you come along. I'm eighty-four years old and my insides are rotted out with cancer. The doc sez I got but two weeks to live. Why on God's green earth would I want to deny myself a couple of life's simplest pleasures? What harm can it do me now? Besides," he said as if his mind was made up, "I'm to old to fight or fuck, so what's left for me?"

They rode on in silence until the old man leaned over and muttered, "Here's the spot. Stop the truck." Billy pulled over to the side of the road and shut the engine off. "The wheel chair ain't going to be any use here as the spot is a hundred and fifty yards up that hill," Grandpa said.

"Well jus' climb on my back," Billy suggested and helped the bony old man into position. As Billy hiked up the hill with Grandpa on his back, he thought of all the times as a child that the roles had been reversed with him on Grandpa's back for innumerable piggy-back rides. The old man was no heavier than the Sunday paper and the brambles and thickets didn't slow them much.

"Jes' set me down by that log over there," Grandpa pointed. Billy eased him down and noticed how the skin on the back of the old man's hands was paper thin and mottled with purple bruises as the old man clutched at the bottle in his lap. Billy returned to the truck and dug out the rest of the gear and hiked back.

He set down the little bag of candies and jerky along side of the box of shells and the shotgun. Then he opened the wheelchair and set the old man in it.

"Jes' set everything within easy reach boy and see if you can scratch up some firewood," Grandpa said as he lit another cigarette. In ten minutes there was enough wood for a bonfire and when Billy struck a match to it the hillside was filled with light.

They both gazed into the flames for a few minutes before Grandpa spoke. "Son, let me just say this and get it out there because if I think on it too long, I'm going to mess it up. Don't interrupt and don't start bawlin', 'cause neither one is gonna help. I'm dying. You know it and I do too. They ain't nothin' we can do about it. It is a fact of life. I've roamed this land for eighty-four years and I've had a lot of fun an' it's time to come to a close. Ever'thing I own goes to you, the house, my car, and all muh stuff. Under the bed is a tin box with a lock on it. There is two thousand dollars in it. It ain't much, but it is enough to give a young man like yerself a start. There is also a Nazi pistol in there that ain't ever been fired. See that it never is, and if you find yourself in hard times, sell it, as it is worth a little money. I've tried very hard to do right by you as best I could but from now on, you are going to have to do without me. Your mother, God rest her soul, left you with me and I wish I had something a little better than a few dollars, a run-down house, and an old pistol to leave you, but you're a smart boy an you'll make it just fine. Find a good woman like your Grandma and not like your mother. She will torment you to no end but she will keep you out of trouble. Get an education if you can swing it and whatever you do, stay out of the Army and jail. They'd eat you alive. You got a good head on your shoulders, use it, and try not to have to work with your hands for a living. You're better than that." Grandpa tipped the bottle back and tossed the stub of his cigarette on the fire and lit another.

"Now don't come too early in the morning," the old man advised, "and when you do, be prepared to make a few phone calls. Now get on home. Tomorrow is going ta be a big day for you." Grandpa reached over for the shot gun and checked to see that both chambers had a shell before he clicked the action shut and set it next to him. He brushed a bit of ash off the old gun, much like a man polishing his prized automobile before looking up and grunting, "Go on now, you hear?"

Billy headed back to through the brush, down the hill and into the truck. As he turned the key, he thought he heard, "I love you son!" but he couldn't be sure over the engine's rumble.


Billy took his time that morning. He was up at six, pulled on his overalls, and set the coffee to boil. He made eggs, ham, and beans and sat down to full plate but found that he couldn't eat a bite and shoved the plate away. His stomach turned at the hot coffee but he drank it anyway. Billy was sure now what the old man had in mind on that hillside with the 12 gauge. He wasn't sure yesterday when he dropped him off, but he knew now. Grandpa wasn't the kind of man to wait for death. He was the kind who would meet death on his own terms and by his own hand. "You damned old fool," he cussed as his hand trembled reaching for the keys to the truck.

At nine o'clock the truck rattled to a stop on the dirt road and Billy turned his flashers on so no one would hit it in the morning fog. He parted the brush and started up the steep hill. He couldn't smell wood smoke, so he knew the fire was out. Grandpa probably didn't bother to add any more wood after he left which means he had sat in the dark for most of the night. In the brambles, Billy's boot struck the empty whiskey bottle. Grandpa must have been really drunk after that much booze on an empty stomach, and he didn't weigh but a hundred and twenty pounds soaking wet.

Billy stepped into the clearing and the first thing that met his gaze was the amount of blood. There was blood everywhere. The wheelchair was tipped over and Grandpa's body was on the ground, slumped over a log face down. "You crazy bastard!" he shouted, "You've gone and done it this time!" Billy tried hard not to burst into tears but he just couldn't choke them back. Here was the man who raised him and had been the only family he had ever known, and now he was lying dead in a pool of blood. Billy hung his head and sobbed from the pit of his soul.

"What are you blubberin' about boy?" came the familiar croak of the old man's voice. Billy looked up to see Grandpa propping himself up and looking at him with blood-shot eyes and a crooked grin.

"You're alive?" Billy sputtered.

"Hell yes I'm alive and I've got a hangover big enough to drop a horse so keep the shouting down will ya?" The old man scratched around and lit the last cigarette from the pack.

"But the blood? You ain't hurt?" Billy stammered.

"I'm sore from sleepin' on the ground and my head is full of jackhammers, but other than that, I'm fine. Now if you are done bawlin', maybe you'd like to haul this eight-point buck I shot down to the truck. He's on the other side of this log. I tried to gut him in the dark, but old hands ain't that steady when the lights are out. He ain't a big one but I figure there will be some meat in the house this winter."

Billy took three trips to load up the deer, Grandpa, and his gear. As he started the truck, the old man leaned over and hugged him. "Thanks for comin' ta get me son. It means alot to me, and on the way home, could you stop at the liquor store? I've got a powerful thirst!"



  1. Ha!

    That was one hellva psyche!

    Brilliant! (Expletive deleted) brilliant!

    You don't have to worry about linking as I can handle that, but if you want to learn how, here is a basic html tutorial. I will have all the stories cued for Tuesday, 12:01 AM Pacific Time and you've already been added to the author list.

  2. Also, I would please like you to think about sending "Grandpa's" to this story site.

  3. Cormac Brown- I've had this story in mind for some time now but I just couldn't seem to find the right place to start. Your unlikely starter sentence just seemed to kick things into gear. I don't ever have trouble coming up with the story but often the begining is my stumbling block.

    I look forward to more of your flash fiction Fridays. Thank you for including me. It is an honor to appear in anything that bears your name, and in the unlikely event that you need any help, you just let me. I'll drop everything.


  4. Sorry! that should read " and in the unlikely event that you need any help, you just let me know!"


  5. Doc,

    Well, I do need help knocking over this ban...nevermind. Like I said, I look forward to more of your writing and you are really coming along.

  6. "I'm too old to fight or fuck, so what's left for me?"

    Great line!

    This is great. Twists and turns and old coot lingo. What else is there?

    Of course, I left mine until last minute. Crap.

  7. Frieda Bee- Thanks so much for stopping by and reading my story. I've found that the quickest way to run people off from my blog is to put up a short story.

    I'm not certain I understand what you mean by "old coot lingo"? Hell, I talk like that all the time. Doesn't everybody?


  8. Top story and I agree with Freida - a hell of a line!


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