“A Simple Story”
a flash-fiction short story by Jeremy C Kester
Part of Free Fiction Fridays
“It’s a simple story,” my grandpapa said again.
I sat on the stoop as he rocked back and forth in his chair. This was the way things had been that summer. Few words were ever spoken except the volume of those four. Each day, boredom would find me there, sitting next to him as he looked off into the distance, his head slightly tilted up and to his left. A stroke had taken most of him away from my grandmother. Only bits and pieces in how he moved through the day remained.
Each morning my grandmama would lead him out to the porch where he would sit until dusk, when my grandmother would bring him back inside. All the while she would come out to give him bathroom breaks or to feed him, which I had taken to helping with while I stayed there.
“It’s a simple story,” he said again. All he ever said to me since his stroke. Before that he would regale me with fantastic exaggerations on his and grandmama’s life when they were my age. Was he trying to piece together another one? I mean, his stories were never simple.
Honestly, I was pissed off about it. Why did he have to be like that now? Why did the stroke have to take him away from us, from me? Already I missed the trips to go fishing, or walk through the woods, lessons from a real father to a child that didn’t have one who gave a fuck enough to care.
All I could do now was sit alongside of him, waiting for death, waiting for him to tell me the story.
“It’s a simple story.”
I bet it was in his own way. His voice sometimes was gruff, as though he couldn’t quite clear his throat on his own, or even if he was not ready to talk, his brain crossed some wires and she spoke anyway. Only those four words though. All day; every day.
That day though, as I sat down next to him, I suddenly realized that he had been quiet for too long. My heart skipped and I looked up at him expecting him to no longer be breathing. Instead, I saw his face, red and sweating. He was straining for something.
“Are you OK, grandpapa,” I said. I got onto my knees and grabbed his hand. I could feel him squeeze back, one of the few physical interactions he could truly make.
His eyes watered as his face trembled. It was like something in there was struggling to escape, held back from the effects of that fucking stroke. I wished that he could break through, even if it was for a single word. I pleaded for him to say something, but eventually, the redness faded. The color returned to his face and the trembling stopped. He returned to whatever this new normal was. What was he trying to tell me?
God, I wanted to cry. Each tear I pushed back with a stony resolve. It was excruciating to see him like that. If I could have only understood what he was trying to say! Dammit.
“It’s a simple story,” he said.
The beats of the day returned. I returned to my vigil, my seat there next to him. Eventually, like he had done with me for so many days before, before something in him broke, before nature dealt its cruelty our way, I started with a story. It wasn’t much. It was simple. A story of a young child, fatherless, raised by a grandfather who was a storyteller. It was a simple story.
And for as long as I spoke, he sat, quiet — not a word uttered for the rest of the day.
Short story written by Jeremy C Kester
©2021 Jeremy C Kester – All Rights Reserved