Christmas With(out) Grandpa by Bobby Salomons
TODAY’S BREW: Water. Even I stop drinking coffee sometimes.
We have a soft spot for Bobby, and so here you have the opportunity to enjoy another of his amazing works. We also encourage you to follow his maniacal ramblings on Twitter @D2Dbooks and visit severedlimbmovement.wordpress.com. Seriously.
Christmas with(out) grandpa.
By: Bobby Salomons (Severed Limb Movement)
Partially based on a true story.
It’s been decades, since he passed, my grandfather. A highly decorated World War II Navy-veteran he had spend most of his time submerged under the waves of the Pacific, part of a submarine crew, telegraphing vital messages to and from the Allied Forces.
One unfortunate day the men had even come under friendly fire, taking heavy hits from strafes by British aircraft who saw them for an enemy sub. A group of five, including my grandfather had braved through all odds and stormed onto the deck and waved the Union Jack – that proud British flag – to signal the pilots they were attacking one of their own. Thankfully the pilots saw their error and aborted their attack.
At the risk of death and injury the sub crew did what they felt they had to, they stood for something. He stood for something. And I’d find out, he would always keep doing so – even after life was over.
I never quite had the opportunity to know him, he succumbed to a brain tumor when my mother was just fifteen. They told me many stories, many of which I believed and many of which I did not.
One such story was that on the day of her final exams, the dark hours of the night before, she was sleeping in her mother’s bed – inconsolable over his passing. And suddenly they saw, on the walls of the room, his fine silhouette – in uniform and all. The smell of his Old Spice perfume filled the room with his presence. He was there, letting them know that he was around, to make a point.
Ever since I was little I played with his officer’s hat, his medals bestowed upon him by the Queen herself and perhaps most importantly: His telegraph key. I would sit and play, endless hours, tapping and studying this mind capturing device – imagining myself to be sending Morse codes to commence attack or announce the war was over.
Of course the telegraph key was old, but sturdy made, with screws to adjust the pressure needed to tap the key and being a child I screwed around with them many times. Occasionally the key would fall apart, but with the screws and the adrenaline rush of “being caught” I had always successfully restored it to how it was to be.
Until one unfortunate day, one of the trunnion screws fell from the table, rolled across the floor and disappeared into a hole right before my eyes. The clunk of metal taunting me. Nerves grabbed me by the throat, followed by unforgiving guilt of losing something so precious.
I managed to provisionally restore the telegraph key, but it would only take the lightest tap to find out that it was broken and incomplete. And luck would have it that tomorrow was Christmas, tomorrow all my mom’s family would be here. My aunts, my uncles, my cousins and nephews and undoubtedly they would ask for the telegraph key. And touch it. Play with it.
They would all know it was me. I did it. I broke it, I lost it. It was my fault.
I kept quiet, but not too quiet to avoid suspicion from my mom that day. All I could do was hope, furiously, that none of my family would find out tomorrow. On Christmas, for crying out loud.
I was young and the tension kept sleep away from me, staring at the walls, listening to the traffic outside, feeling remorse. Quietly I mourned the loss of my grandfather, though I had never met him, the telegraph key was my grandfather to me. And now I had ruined that. This was my Christmas without grandpa.
I fell asleep in the early hours of the morning, when things are most quiet and tense. The world no longer belongs to people, it belongs to the dark and the unknown and whatever ventures inside of it.
Suddenly I woke up, my heart racing for no particular reason, cold sweat on my back. There was something in the air, sparkling like fireworks yet invisible to the eyes, I could feel it under my skin.
I gasped and could smell it, Old Spice, even though I had never smelled it before – I knew this had to be it.
Shivering and shaking I pulled the blankets up over my head, yet curiosity forced me to peak around the room from underneath the safety of the covers. Slowly my eyes adjusted to the dark, checking one corner to the next. Soon, I had covered three corners of my room, if there was anything to be seen it had to be the corner with the door.
I quietly rolled underneath my covers and looked at the door. Every nerve, every hair, every muscle fired electric currents through my body – there he stood. Quietly.
His exceedingly tall stature casting upon the cafe doors that were part of my room, not moving an inch yet so overwhelmingly present I felt he could reach out and touch me. I feared he was angry, there to punish me. I dove underneath the covers and as dawn approached his silhouette slowly faded away.
I fell asleep again, exhausted and woke up when my dad checked on me.
Reluctantly I stepped from my bed as my father fluffed my pillow and straightened my blankets. Suddenly I heard a soft metal clunk, my father picked it up,
“…Is that the screw from your grandfather’s telegraph key?” He said. I shivered, I turned around and looked at him – I could tell he was slightly annoyed and not joking.
“Maybe…?” I stuttered, shaking at the knees.
“You should know better than to play with it, you could lose it you know. It’s important to your mom… And put something on, you’re shivering.”
As I brushed my teeth I realized, my grandfather wasn’t there because he was angry or to scare me, he was returning the screw of his telegraph key and to make a point. And so he did.
Ever since, every single year again, on the night before Christmas I can see him standing in the corner of my room. I can smell his perfume. On Christmas morning I fluff my pillow, followed by the sound of a metal clunk, the trunnion screw of his telegraph key.
I have a running gag with a ghost, I respect him very much.