The Letter by Andy Henion

Jan 26 2012

They’re showing True Grit at the Golden Oaks Village again, not even the new one, and Grandpa Ernest makes a sour face and says he doesn’t care what anybody says, John Wayne was the most one-dimensional actor in Hollywood. Which is a relief to the three of us kids because the last thing we want to do is sit in a stinky cafeteria with a bunch of blue-hairs watching a cardboard western. Chandra asks if she should grab the Euchre cards but Gramps says hell no, he’s been laying around all day and he’s gonna get his ancient ass up and stretch his legs. Sissy gets all excited and says she knows what we can do and Chandra and I share a look because last time we were here Gramps was off getting an X-ray and the three of us kids had a modified scavenger hunt (my idea) and barely had time to get the oldsters’ belongings back in their rooms before Mom showed up. Mom drops us off every Sunday at Movie Time so she can get two hours of Peace and Quiet, being a single mom and all, well single in the sense that my stepdad’s off fighting terrorism in a desert (staff sergeant, Second Infantry Division). So then Sissy suggests we go find The Most Interesting Things in Golden Oaks and Gramps asks her what she’s talking about and she tells him what we did last time while I hold my breath and Chandra tugs at her lips. But instead of being mad Gramps gets a big smile and says let’s split the hell up and meet back here in twenty minutes. My half-sisters run one way and I run the other and proceed to rummage through three rooms before finding a suitable entry. Twenty minutes later we’re back in Gramps’s room holding our entries behind our backs and Gramps says Puddy (that’s my nickname), you go first and I hold it up and say: hand-written novel containing the words henceforth and cockamamie within the first three pages. I get nods and tongue-clucks and then Chandra brings hers out and says: shark tooth, roughly two and a quarter inches in length, and this gets a much better reception even though I have serious doubts as to its authenticity. It’s Gramps’ turn now and he makes a big show of whipping out a tent-sized cloth and holding it high for all to see. One pair bloomers, adult large, yellowed with age, he says and we laugh until we’re wheezy. When this dies down Gramps says okay, Sissy, let’s see what you got and from behind her back she produces a solid rubber tube with a bulbous end and Black Mamba written on the base. A miniature billy club, says Sissy, swinging it back and forth, and now Grandpa Ernest is laughing so hard he bends over and squeezes his chest. Chandra and I share another look, bug eyes, because we know what this is, at least I think I do, and it’s definitely Inappropriate for Children. Gramps’ face is purple now and tears are running through his wrinkles and there’s Mom standing in the doorway with her mouth open. Are you flippin’ kidding me? she says. Then: Dad, are you having a heart attack? Gramps says so what if I am, I’ve got six weeks left on this earth and goddamn it if I won’t spend it laughing with my grandchildren (Gramps has been complaining about having six weeks to live for two and a half years). I asked you to stop swearing in front of the kids, says Mom, and snatches the tube from Sissy. Where did you get this? she says, and Sissy points down the hall and says Room Seventeen. This is stealing, says Mom. You’ve taught my children to steal. Oh lighten up, says Gramps. When did you lose your sense of humor anyway? Mom waves her hands around and says, Since this. All of this. Then she flings the black tube to the floor and digs in her purse and comes out with a letter. She shakes it at Gramps like she’s angry or sad and says I’ve been carrying this around for six hours. Gramps takes the letter and looks down at it for several seconds and says, very quietly, They don’t do it by mail, honey. IT’S AN OFFICIAL FUCKING LETTER! screams Mom, and suddenly she’s crying and Sissy is crying and Chandra is about to cry. Gramps pats his bed and Mom sits close to him and we kids join them and Gramps says, I’ll prove it to you right now, and begins tearing at the envelope with shaky fingers.

Andy Henion’s fiction has appeared, online and in print, in Spork, Hobart, Word Riot, Thieves Jargon and many other publications. He hails from the Midwest.

No responses yet

Leave a Reply