Grandpap

Grandpap

A Story by Mel
"

this is a short, independent fragment of a much larger story.

"

The old man knew two things when he woke up. The first being that he was dying and the second that he had something to say. Old men die everyday. How blessed are they, to live for so long. He thought about this as he rose from bed and kissed his grandson awake. He washed his feet. He picked up a pail and motioned for his sleepy young descendent to fetch water. The little one teetered down the hill from the hut, Grandpap keeping a watchful eye through the towering blades of grass. He opened his mouth and pushed air from his chest through it, willing words to form. They stayed trapped just behind his throat, prisoners. 

The little boy reappeared some time later, carrying the brimming pale with both hands. The grandfather met him halfway up the hill, taking the water and patting the boy’s head. 

The old man spent his day dreaming of past lives and future ones. Thought about the djinniya, the gnome, and the prairie girl he had known long ago. All the things he could say to her. All the things he would say. And the one way he knew how.

He snuffed out the candle that night, laying next to the sleeping heap of the boy, but he could not follow suit. His eyes were two full moons, staring up at the ceiling, seeing invisible fantasies. Even the old fall victim to the peace of the night. The quietness of it pulls from the mind sharp thoughts that cut through the stillness, visions rippling like dark ponds. Before him danced the most fantastical vision yet, beating loud and rhythmic, drums of heaven. Within him, he felt his heart become younger with every beat.

Finally his lids grew heavy and his heart became soft again in it’s chamber, and he found slumber next to his boy.

He awoke feeling the resolve only the very young and very old feel. He gathered all he needed, which was nothing but the boy and food for three days. Hands clasped, the grandson and grandfather said goodbye to their hill hut. They mounted the last grass bison, who hunched patiently as the two struggled to straddle, and the three set off towards the rising sun. The boy asked questions the old man could not answer, so his little words rose and fell in the air companionless. 

Three days came and went, and the landscape had barely altered, not that they could see, deep within the grasses. Still they were in the rolling hills in the sky’s giant mouth. But the grandfather had traveled many times before unbeknownst to his little companion. They found food right where the grandfather had motioned they would. They carried on still towards the rising sun. The boy still asked, “Grandpap, where are we going?” to which Grandpap would shrug and half-smile, knowing but not saying. 

Weeks on more through the prairies, although eventually the grasses grew shorter and shorter until finally they crunched beneath the bison’s hooves. Grandpap knew these lands well. His own homeland. And hers. Still towards the rising sun they ventured until the land altered into new realities, shrublands,  forests and meadows. Occasionally, Grandpap would pull from his robes a tin of clay and rub a fingerful on his and his young companion’s foreheads. Finally they reached the mountains and Grandpap nudged the grass bison through to a pass that led to the great, white desert.

This time when the boy poked his grandfather on the back and asked, “Grandpap, where are we going?” Grandpap smiled and pointed out across the whipping dunes. In the distance, a great mountain towered, a lonesome kingdom.

At the foot of the mountain, the boy asked, “Grandpap, how are we to climb this mountain?” A creature of the prairies, the grass bison did not have the grace or stamina to ascend the treacherous rocks. The old man smiled and pointed. The beast huffed and slowly, the trio rose above the sands, mounting God’s pedestal.

This mountain was not like the ones they had passed. It stood steep and alone amongst the desertscape. The climb was not gentle. It was not meant to be.

Finally, the beast could take no more halfway up the mountain, and the man and boy kissed it goodbye. It watched them climb on hands and knees until they disappeared into the clouds.

At the peak, the two now could see what waited for them. She stood motionless on a volcanic step balancing on her tiptoes. One arm was stretched over her head so her fingers scraped the clouds as they rolled passed, one hand held out in front of her, asking them to grab hold. Her hair tumbled around her shoulders and waist, met her feet, and down the peak, suffocating the rock around her. It is said that her hair grows, and someday will suffocate the world, ending all life. For now, it was only conquering the peak of this one mountain. Dipped in stone, she stared out towards the boy and his Grandpap. In the curve of her arm reached out before her grew a twisting little tree hung heavy with bursting, purple fruits. The boy grabbed onto his grandfather’s trousers from behind. He patted the boy’s head lovingly.

He straightened up and took a hard look at the statue woman, not quite trusting her. There were many reasons not to. But death holds no space for pride. His knobbly hand reached out and clasped hers, as he leaned forward and lightly kissed her stone knuckles with his ancient lips. He looked down at the boy and he followed suit.

    He plucked a fruit from the tree and sunk soft teeth into it, gulping large chunks of it’s flesh. It was less sweet than it looked. Salty and sour. The third bite slid down, and as it did so, warmed his throat and mouth. The fourth did as well,  warmer. The more he ate, the more heat. The last bite righteously burned, but it slid down nonetheless, meeting the rest of the fruit in the pit of his stomach in one sizzling pile. A little feather tickled the back of his throat. Then a lot of feathers tickled his whole throat, his mouth, his tongue. He coughed and coughed, kneeling down in front of the statue, clutching his neck. His face was purple and plump like the fruit. His grandson crouched next to his grandfather, eyes wide. Finally, after several minutes, the burning, the itching ceased, and he felt as he did before.

    He looked up at his grandson, opened his mouth wide and whooped. For the first time in over forty years, he heard his own voice. It sounded beautiful, like the friction of a stormcloud. He whooped again, and this time the boy joined him and they whooped together.

    The sun set and they curled up at the foot of the statue, full of magical fruit. The boy fell asleep instantly in the arms of his only family. But the old man stayed awake, staring out over the dark world, and telling it his secrets. It deserved to know. He said the name of his prairie girl in his new, scratchy voice. He had never done so before. It felt on his lips exactly how he had always imagined it would. It was a seed, and by saying it, he planted it, watered it with happy tears and it bloomed in the air around him. He said it over and over until his heart was a bursting garden. And burst it did finally in the early dawn, quietly in his loving, light chest.

    The boy descended the mountain alone. He found the grass buffalo right where they had left it and rode him back over the deserts. He grew weary fast, as young boys do. At the first village in the prairies, he stopped and rested in the home of kind and hospitable farmers, where he stayed until he was much older and wiser.

    Now only the stars truly know the storied life of the old man, and to this day they tell it to each other so that sometimes when they look down upon the Earth, they do so with rebloomed admiration for those that call it home.



© 2019 Mel


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You've captured a wonderful mood in this story Mel with lots of good images and description. It reads like some Greek legend. With the grandson and grandfather you've been able to weave this story of memory and relationship.
Well done.
Regards.
Alan

Posted 1 Year Ago


Mel

1 Year Ago

Thanks a lot!!
Whatever words I say, they will be weak and inadequate in saying how great I think this is. Truly, it verily sings to my old grandpap heart. Terrific, just terrific.

Posted 3 Years Ago


Mel

3 Years Ago

Thank you very much!!

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Added on June 2, 2018
Last Updated on December 17, 2019
Tags: fantasy, story, chapter, old, man, old man

Author

Mel
Mel

Mammoth Hot Springs, WY



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