This is a short work of fiction that I’d thought had been lost to time and me being very bad at backing up all my writing. However my parents are both packrats and during a recent purge of excessive items collected over living in the same house for over 40 years, they stumbled upon this.
“…and I know that he’s by a campfire, drink in hand, telling Shannon the same stories she hasn’t heard in fifteen years.”
I walk to my seat, stiff-backed with a zombie stride. My eyes glazed but dry. The rest of the ceremony? All I recall is the smooth grain of chestnut-stained oak digging into my back and the light scent of fresh-cut carnations upon stale air. Finally! The numbingly long function ends, heralding the immediate commencement of another gathering.
Grab my jacket and bolt for the exit. People block my escape, but a mumbled “hello”, a terse nod or a deft side-step usher me to freedom.
Breathe. A long, deep, heady pull.
“Hey bro, great speech. I think Gr…”, begins my brother.
“I know. It’s not done yet. Drive. Please?”
He stares at me, nods once and unlocks the door to his white Cavalier Coup, reddish-brown where rust claims spots around the wheel wells. He throws the car into gear and we surge forward, exit the parking lot.
A cousin waves frantically at us.
“Where to?” asks my brother.
Rest my forehead against the passenger’s side window, try to let its coolness temper the feverish thoughts exploding in my skull. My brother pulls into some supermarket, parks near the entrance. He follows me in my methodical search; one bottle of tonic water, two limes, two glasses. “You joining me?” He pauses and nods. I select three round, short, thick tumblers. Clear. Plain.
Even with the detour to the market, we arrive before anyone else, but we avoid the reception. I lead the way down the path, a path we’ve both been down thousands of times. It changes, but we instinctively know the best route. He carries the shopping bag. I hold a smaller paper bag, clutched tight to my chest. We emerge from the overgrown path, cross the railroad tracks and mae the sharp, steep descent to the beach. The beach, all rough boulders and small stones. Dirty from years of pollution. The waves lap oily-slick against the shore.
I set the three glasses down on a large rock. My brother cuts the lime wedges; thick, juicy. I pour a good measure of tonic into the glasses, bubbles rush to the surface. Make small popping sounds of escape. Peel back the paper on the package. Add the proper amount of gin.
I take a tumbler, my brother lifts another. Click the three together in silent salute. Drink long pulls from our glasses. Quickly find them empty.One still perches upon the rock, untouched.
The one for our grandfather.
Refill the two empty glasses, stare silent out to sea, lost in private memories. Head feels less fevered now, a combination of ocean breeze and alcohol.
“I saw him in the church today. Just before I finished the eulogy. He was up in the rafters, a drink in hand. He gave me a wink to let me know he’d appreciated what I’d said. But for me, this is my eulogy for Granddad. Drinking his drink at his favourite place on earth.”
“What about his drink?”
“You do the honours.”
My brother tests the weight of Granddad’s glass. In a fluid motion he leans back adn heaves the tumbler with all his might. It tumbles. End over end. Gin-and-tonic teardrops mix with salty brine. The glass strikes the sea and slips with a sigh beneath the surface.
A final tribute to my Grandfather.