catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 23 :: 2009.11.27 — 2009.12.10


Best friends

“I am so bored.” Sam chewed the end of her hair. “Let’s play hide-and-seek or something.”

“Sure,” Derek blurted. He was so happy to be hanging out with Sam and us older kids that it didn’t matter what we did. Family functions were good that way for Derek.

“I don’t really feel like it,” I said, knowing it would make Sam mad.

“Oh, come on!” She pushed her hair behind her ear. “There’s nothing else to do out here.” She crossed her arms the same way Aunt Susan does when she’s angry.  “This is the crappiest family vacation ever.”

“It’s not a vacation.” Rashel, her younger sister, rolled her eyes. “Grandpa died, remember?”

“Whatever. I just want to do something.” Sam gnawed the flips of her hair as if chewing something would cure her boredom. “I mean, his funeral was like, two days ago and our parents are still cleaning out his junk. How long does it take to empty someone’s house?”

I had to agree with my cousin here. I was getting bored too and it seemed like Grandpa had a ton of stuff in his place. There were so many books! And tons of dusty shelves, two-deep with hardbacks, all filled with aging brown pages. Dad told me that all writers’ houses looked liked that.

“Aren’t you even a little sorry he’s gone?” I asked Sam. Maybe that was unfair, but she was being such a snot.

“Hey, you didn’t cry at his funeral either.”

I shrugged. She had me there. Everyone else did but me and Sam. Derek was bawling and so was Rashel.  Sam was too angry to cry, as though because the funeral wasn’t her idea she wasn’t going to participate. I don’t know why I didn’t, though.

“I’m just sick of doing nothing. It’s summer; we’re supposed to be having fun,” she whined. “This vacation stinks!”

“It’s not a vacation,” Rashel reminded her.

Our parents had sentenced us to the yard right after the funeral reception. While my father and his sister were boxing up Grandpa’s collections of Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, my cousins, brother and I were told to play in the backyard and stay out of the way. They were encasing Grandpa’s life in cardboard and duct tape, and I was relegated to an unkempt lawn for three days with cousins I only saw once a year and a little brother who still thought boogers were funny.

Grandpa’s half acre wasn’t too exciting after the first couple of hours either. Aside from the wooded hill on the edge of his property, there was really nothing to do. And we weren’t allowed to play in the woods. Aunt Susan always acted like we might fall out of a tree or get eaten by a bear or some other dumb thing. So, we were stuck in the backyard, melting in July sunshine.

“Come on, let’s start the game. Doug, you’re ‘it’ first.” Sam punched my arm a little too hard as she passed.

“But I said I don’t want to play!”

“It’s not like you’ve got anything better to do. Gosh, I wish I was with my friends.” She walked towards the shed in the corner of the lot. Finding her would be easy. This was stupid.

“Close your eyes!” she yelled. “And start counting!”

I thought about the brown pages of Grandpa’s books. And about all of his magazines that were going to be sold to antique stores. Should I go inside and ask Dad if I could help?  I thought about it for a minute but closed my eyes and started counting.

“Where are we going?” I asked. It was a cold morning and my big winter coat felt like a bean bag eating my chest. I tucked the seatbelt under my arm to get some relief.

“Back to Grandpa’s house. It finally sold.” Dad responded quietly. He sipped coffee and watched the road as if he was listening to a serious conversation he wasn’t allowed to join.

“Is that good?” Derek asked from the back seat.

“It sure is, buddy.” Dad said after a minute. “I just want to go take one more look at the place before we let it go. The house is like an old friend of mine.”

“Grandpa always said that books were his best friends.” Derek said. He leaned forward, his head between the front seats of our mini-van.

“That’s right, he did.” Dad smiled and patted Derek’s knees. “I’m glad you remember that about him, buddy.”  Dad was wearing one of Grandpa’s old scarves. His coffee smelled like Grandpa’s house did all the time.

Forty-five minutes later, we were there. Dead foliage covered the backyard and I imagined playing hide-and-seek in piles of leaves.

“I’m just going to have a look around guys.” Dad’s words caught slightly in his throat. “Stay close to the house. Don’t go too far into the woods.”

We both nodded and watched him wander from empty room to empty room. He kept his hands in his pockets and his mouth closed, he must have been looking back in time. It didn’t take long for Derek to get stir crazy.

“Race you to the woods?” He was already halfway out the front door. I ran after him and caught up with him easily.

“No fair! You’re bigger than me.” I ignored his whining and ran farther into the woods than I ever had before. I tripped over something heavy in the leaves and cried out as I fell.

“Doug?!” Dad rushed out of the house. He and Derek were suddenly next to me.

“Are you okay?” Dad eyes were watery. 

“Yeah, I’m fine. I tripped over something.” I stood up and brushed dirt off my jeans. We were standing next to a pile of moldy books, half covered with weeds.

“What’s this?” I asked.

Derek smiled. “Weird. Are all those books Grandpa’s?”

Dad sighed. I think I saw a tear on his cheek, but to this day I’m not sure.

“We had to get rid of them somehow. It’s some of his old ones from the basement. They were ruined already. Nobody wanted them at the antique stores, even as a donation. Aunt Susan wanted to burn them, but I couldn’t do that.” His words dried up.

We looked at the books for a few minutes. Even Derek was quiet. I missed Grandpa then, I think for the first time. I spoke first.

“I’m glad that some of his best friends are going to watch over the house for us.”

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