Last week, I took a poll: What should I write next? I posted three different prompts, and this was the winner: They thought I’d forget. But I remember everything.
He was getting old and he knew it. Age had seeped into his joints like rainwater into a basement–little by little until, at last, the damage was done and beyond repair.
That’s how he felt most days. Beyond repair. He didn’t admit that to anyone, especially since his progeny always tended to look at him with such concern. No. Not concern. Sympathy.
Disgusting. Grandpa’s getting old. He’s losing it.
They had no idea. Sure, his body was failing. That’s what bodies did after 80 years on this Earth. But his mind… that was completely different. Youth couldn’t separate the slow steps and creaking limbs from the person navigating them. Old was just old.
So he’d stopped telling them the stories. Nowadays, they were just the ramblings of an old man. Once, his tales had seen his kids off to bed and been the entertainment of long car rides. (Of course, he’d edited them from time to time–six-year-olds didn’t need to know all the grisly details.)
But he’d never exaggerated. He knew they all thought he did. In fact, he was certain they thought he’d made them all up. The drawback of being an author–you were a storyteller, so that meant everything you said was just that: a story.
But not these. Never these.
He’d never tried to correct them, though. Believing something was fiction gave it a special type of magic. Why take that away? And besides, he didn’t really care if anyone believed the stories. That wasn’t the point.
He wondered now why he’d never actually written them down, shared them with more people. Let them impact others the way they had him. Of course, reading it and living it were two different things, but still….
“Grandpa? You doin’ okay in here? You’re so quiet.”
“Fine. Just entertaining myself with my thoughts.”
“Oh. Okay. If you need anything….”
He gave a nod, knowing full well that his oldest granddaughter, Viv, only meant well. He’d be living with her now. Couldn’t navigate his own house on his own. It was too big, and he was too old.
He snorted, glancing over at the laptop. It was an old one, dinged and running on an operating system that was long out of date. His youngest grandson would always look it over and laugh, then talk a mile-a-minute over how he could improve it. He’d always reply, “Nah, that’s alright. I’m used to it, Luc.” (His oldest boy, Max, had married a nice girl named Ava. The two had decided to give all of their kids’ three-letter names, like theirs. Viv, Kai, Mia, and Luc had been the result. His other two children–Cooper and Sheila hadn’t been nearly as “themed” with their naming…or nearly as fruitful. Cooper and his wife had only one child, and Sheila and her guy–divorced now–had stopped at two.)
Three kids and seven grandkids. Not too bad of a legacy, he had to admit. That, and a nice little collection of books. None of them, he figured, would ever stand the test of time. They’d probably end up gathering dust on library shelves, maybe being picked up by some curious browser. Oh well…. At least he’d keep living in little spurts like that, after he was gone.
He glanced again at the laptop. Why had he never written the stories? Was it because, after all these years, it all still hurt too much? Because of how, without them, none of what he held dear–this legacy of his–would never have existed at all? Had he never really reconcile how tragedy could be a bearer of gifts?
He scowled. Maybe he never had worked through it all. Preferring instead, to just relive the happy moments before… well, before.
He was 80 years old. If he wasn’t going to deal with it now, he supposed he never would.
He took a few slow, purposeful steps to the laptop. He booted it up. Saw his family smiling back at him once it loaded. The desktop picture had been taken at his last birthday. The big 8-0.
He never thought he’d live this long. But here he is.
He opened a document, hesitated for a moment. Was he really going to write it? All of it? And if so… how? It had happened so long ago, and while he was sure that his family thought he’d forgotten so much, the truth was that he remembered it all.
He remembered everything. Especially the summer of 2013.
Could he really write it out the way it had happened to him? Like a memoir? Could he be honest enough about both the good and the bad if he kept himself shackled to each and every moment?
No. He’d always written fiction. It had a special magic. Why take it away now?
He cracked his neck and his knuckles, thought for a moment, and then began to type….
A lot didn’t matter, plain and simple. Bo’s girlfriend dumping him. Being fired from his mediocre after-school job. His dad finally hitting the road after months of arguments and cold, stilted silences. His senior year of high school quickly approaching, and Bo without even an inkling of what he wanted to do with his life.
His life. How could it seem so huge and also so insignificant at the age of 16?
But that didn’t matter, either. All that mattered was that he was actually going through with it. After years of being a pretty okay kid, a pretty okay student, and a pretty okay son, he was finally doing something that wasn’t okay. His whole life had been spent in the middle–not the best grades, but also not the worst. Not the always-do-right teacher’s pet, but also not the rebel constantly in the principal’s office.
Bo was just okay. He was just there.
But now, he wouldn’t be. Because for the first time in his life, he was going to do something reckless. Something different. Something unexpected.
He took a moment to imagine everyone’s reactions: How his mom would be shocked at the note on his bed. How his few friends would wonder if there’d been any signs: “Did he seem weird last time you talked to him? No, he seemed normal to me.” “Guess you never can tell.” How the small town of Raven’s Crossing would suck every lie, half-truth, and conspiracy out of the gossip, like a child with their very first ice cream cone.
None of them would really know, of course.
And he was planning on coming back.
Bo nodded to himself, sliding back into the car. He put his hands on the wheel, exhaled slowly, and turned the key. The headlights flooded the street with white, and the radio resumed playing.
“Let’s see what happens,” he muttered to himself, pulling into the road and across the street to the gas station. He had a long trip ahead of him, and he didn’t know when he’d get another chance to stop.
Copyright Sarah Davidson 2020
TO BE CONTINUED
I was definitely not planning on this being a larger story… but here we are. Sometimes, when you start writing, you just have to go with it.
Thank you to everyone who voted in my poll and helping me find this inspiration! Be on the lookout for the next chapter in future posts!