Mary Elizabeth,screaming at her rabid, little dog...
“Pops” by Juan Carlos Emile Jose Carlos
Things are not always what they seem, thought Emile, a young man who finds life in a small, Arizona town lonely, desolate and dull until the day he found himself caught in the middle of a mysterious and an unsettling event, the sudden death of Pops, his best friend and grandfather.
Emile’s grandmother calmly told him to run “straight away to get Pop’s best suit. The phone rang as he was climbing the stairs and he stumbled forward, a twist of fate, which results in him stubbing his toe against a strangely, loose board knocking it sideways. As Emile bent forward in pain, he discovered a piece of black felt sticking out of the corner.
Anyone else might have thought it was insulation, but Emile had helped his grandfather put the stairs in place, and he knew it wasn’t insulation. Holding his breath and his big toe, he sat down and began to tug at the fabric, which came out easier than he had expected and beneath the fabric he found a large, deeply lacquered, black box, behind the riser.
His grandmother called up the stairs, “Are you alright, son? “ Emile jumped “out of his skin” but played it cool, taking a deep breath he said, “Yeah, Gramzies, I stumped my toe on the stair, I’m alright, no blood. I’ll be down in a minute.” He put the cloth in place and put the board back, tapping it lightly with his free hand.
From below, he could hear his grandmother on the phone, talking to Dr. Harvey, his grandfather’s cardiologist. He stood up and walked over to the walk in closet to get his grandfather’s gray, summer weight suit, a white pinpoint shirt and his favorite red paisley “power tie”. Pops always said it was his “lucky tie” unless he wore it in the grocery store and people mistook him for the store manager.
Emile smiled as he loosely draped the clothing over the foot of his grandparent’s king size bed. He went into the large closet again, collecting his grandfather’s Munsingwear boxers, a pair of Canterbury gold toes, his new Cole Hann, Air Marley Bits and placed them on the floor, at the foot of the bed.
Emile took a deep breath and crossed the room, stopping in front of the triple dresser. He watched his reflection in the mirror as he reached into the top, left hand drawer for his grandfather’s onyx cuff links his grandmother had given him, just two weeks ago, on Father’s day. Emile retraced his steps and put the cuff links on the nightstand, next to his grandfather’s side of the bed.
He noticed his hands were steady, as he opened the drawer of the night stand to pick up the wedding photo “in the Lenox frame” and laid it next to the watch. He remembered, Pops always said, “Steady hands, son that’s the sign of a man.”
Emile looked around the room, thinking of what else he needed. He should remember everything. His grandfather had told him time and time again, “just how things should be for a proper burial”.
He went to the window and across the lawn, everything seemed “normal”. From behind the hedgerow, he could hear his tutor, Mary Elizabeth, screaming at her rabid, little dog as if screaming would make him stop barking. Between the garages, the mailman, Mr. Angelino, was flipping through the pages of the housekeeper’s latest issue of Victoria’s Secret.
He saw his grandfather’s silver XKR, still parked in the front drive where he usually parked when he came home from the barber. Emile heard his self whisper, “The car is probably still warm.”
He stood back, from the window, and shook his head while running his fingers through his nearly long hair, remembering what he had forgotten, Pop’s belt and his “list of mementos”: One of Pop’s favorite golf tees, “right side pocket, in case God’s up for a round or two. The small, white Bible with pressed violets, marking John 3:16. I picked those flowers for your grandmother, fifty four years ago, long before your father was a gleam in anyone’s eye and don’t forget son, in the top drawer, next to the Piaget Polo, the beige envelope. The envelope goes in the left, inside pocket of my suit jacket.”
Emile collected each item as they came to mind, putting each in its designated place. He was curious about the envelope, he had seen it nearly every time he had opened the drawer, always thinking he would ask his grandfather and always forgetting as soon as the drawer was closed.
He opened the envelope and emptied the contents on the bed.Two tickets, dated April 4, 1959, Boston vs. New York Yankees, never used. A lock of long, dark hair, (the same color as his) tied in a circle braid with tiny, fabric violets and leaves. A phone number for someone named Larry Knechtel, a 1975 ad for Gibson Strings “101” and a pencil drawing on notebook paper titled, “Pops” by Juan Carlos Emile Jose Carlos, age seven and three quarters.
He smiled at his long name and realized things haven’t really changed. He still wants to be just like Pops, when he grows up.
Emile neatly tucked everything in the envelope, opened the suit jacket and slid Pop's favorite treasures in the right pocket.
Deborah Russell, © 2006
( First Chapter Excerpt)
Image: Chief Mountain, DRussell, 06