Mr. Grandfather

By Malvoyant Berserker

Mr. Benjamin Xavier Grandfather, better known to folks in Grandville as Mr. Granpa, is the smartest old man in Grandville, population 700 and something (what it actually says on the You Are Now Entering sign). Nobody knows in the least how Mr. Granpa’s surname came to be Grandfather, however they do know that he likes the name shortened to just Granpa on postcards and letters, so when someone mails him a letter, it would begin with ‘Dear Granpa’, like a Christmas letter addressed to the person’s actual grandpa, it may be uncomfortable for some people to accept this name, but they just have to deal with it, because nobody argues with the smartest man in Grandville, at least not the senior citizens. Mr. Granpa is a very smart man, he is a world-renowned construction engineer; it was he who designed the local train station, the mayor’s office in Youngsville, and it’s rumored that he had lent a hand in the design of the White House, during its re-renovation. Engineering is Mr. Granpa’s greatest talent, he is also very smart in other areas of intellect, but engineering and design technology is his strongest trait, or else he would have retired before his age of seventy-four long ago. In his Mansion, Mr. Granpa keeps blueprints, drawings and sketches, and maps all crowded in the hallways, the unused bedchambers, the vacant kitchens, the silent ballroom, the dusty family room, the leaky den, and finally the twenty or so bathrooms. At the backyard of Mr. Granpa’s mansion, there is a 100 acre garden flowering with a strange plant called the Rosebush-Haired Head-plant; they were a present to him from his son Wilfred (he will be mentioned again shortly). The plant was his son’s own creation, Mr. Granpa did not initially want to keep it, because it looks weird among the daisies and roses and violets his hired gardener had installed in his garden, but the plant soon flourished on Mr. Granpa’s over fertilized soil and ate off all of the other plants, now his garden is full of clumps of head busts with rosebushes growing out of their heads that are supported by stems, reaching a meter into the air. Except for this outbreak of a weird plant, the rest of the garden grounds are trimmed with soft grass and ideal for a picnic on a sunny day. Beyond his 100 acre garden is a 200 acre hedge maze. The hedges are grown by Mr. Granpa’s gardener, but each hedge design, each hedge cut into geometric shapes, animals, building, furniture, those hedge are cut by Mr. Granpa himself, exercising his gift of designs.  

Mr. Granpa uses his understanding of human body structure to keep himself fit and capable of storming the WWII Normandy Beach; in a sense, he qualifies as a PhD doctor in the area of physical and psychological health. Even at this ripe old age, his body is so tough he can wrestle with a Viking and win, bungee-jump off the CN Tower, and invent a deadly magnetic detonator to smoke out all the road-side bombs in Afghanistan, if only he can put his mind to it. None of it is really challenging, if one can understand the physics and mechanics behind the force like Mr. Granpa so shrewdly does. With his thorough understanding of all structural matter, Mr. Granpa is invincible against all of the engineers in the world. He can kick Tony Stark’s butt any day. If only he can put his mind to it.

The reason Mr. Granpa can not put him mind to any of the awesome things listed above is because of a recent tragedy that struck him hard in the groin, the most unpleasant place to be struck by unless love-passion-related, and this instance was not. It concerns the death of his only son, Wilfred Benjamin Grandfather, who never got to be a grandfather as his surname suggests.

Wilfred B Grandfather was a big disappointment, as Mr. Granpa reflects. It all began when his mother, Mrs. Granpa the wife of Mr. Granpa, died giving birth to him. Mr. Granpa was devastated to learn of the tragedy, he was at work working on building a new skyscraper at the time, and was not there to hold her hand as Mrs. Granpa passed away; he blames it partially on himself, and partially on Wilfred. Mr. Granpa never remarried; instead he built himself a house at the outskirts of Grandville, and lives there in seclusion, working on endless projects to take his mind off the suffering he suffers. From there, Wilfred became a bigger disappointment to Mr. Granpa when he learned that his son had not inherited a bit of Mr. Granpa’s talents, nor was he ever interested in construction designing. Wilfred was a gifted naturalist, something Mr. Granpa could never understand. Wilfred became dedicated to wildlife studies, and discovered fifteen new species of plants; he had worked also as an environmental activist. Mr. Granpa holds the foolish belief that any profession with the word ‘mentalist’ in its name had to be a bad apple; a mentally unstable is what it is, and environmentalist does indeed have ‘mentalist’ in its name. So Mr. Granpa disowned his only son. Wilfred did not however forget his dear old grieving father; every year he would send him a postcard, one from a different country each year, and kept him up to date on his travels and studies. Mr. Granpa didn’t know what to say, he did realize his son was a genius, just not the kind of genius he wants as a son. Wilfred had soon married, in his early twenties, and married he did to another naturalist, they had a daughter, and so Mr. Granpa became a grandfather true to his surname, all without fulfilling any particular duty as a grandfather he had no idea he should.

Wilfred and his wife died a few weeks ago, and Mr. Granpa was no sooner to receive the news; they had perished in the Amazon Rainforest, they were jumped by poisonous tree frogs while collecting samples. They died for their profession. Foolish, Mr. Granpa thought, until he heard the news of Wilfred’s will: his son said he nor his wife wanted to be buried under a rock in a cemetery, they wish to have their ashes scattered over the Alps, where they had met; this news made Mr. Granpa so pissed off at that his son decided not to abide to the traditional way of burial that he was near a heart attack when his only son added that they do not wish to have a funeral because they didn’t want anyone to grieve for their absence; they only returned to nature, the will said. Mr. Granpa came out of the Environmentalist Agency in Brazil as red as a chili pepper and equally hot. Mr. Granpa, being the sole relative of Wilfred Grandfather and his dear wife, got custody of their daughter, his granddaughter whom he barely knew.

Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter is, like the child of two naturalists, a naturalist. To her, Mr. Granpa’s mansion is as boring a place as a video game. On her first day living with Mr. Granpa, she asked for a tent, a solar-powered flashlight (Mr. Granpa didn’t have one, but he made one and insisted her to follow through with his progress, and it took 1 hour but she fell asleep in the first 10 minutes), a rolled up mattress, and a kite. Then she staked out for Mr. Granpa’s hedge maze and has been gone since. Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter, her name he can not remember, although she did repeat it to him five times the first they’ve met, and she couldn’t stop shaking his hand and swinging it, asking why aren’t there any pictures of Wilfred around the house, and Mr. Granpa had told her he locked the only picture of his son in a metal chest and threw the key into the hedges, to be rid of the disappointing memories. At this, Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter told him excitedly that she’s going to explore the hedge maze at the rear of his garden, all of it, and find the key to the chest, as her first favor to her granddad; it would take a few weeks, and she would tell him how far she’s gone with the exploration using the kite to mark where she’s at. What a naturalist! Mr. Granpa thought, more interested in some hedges rather than the grand mansion itself, and finding the lost key in a 200 acre hedge, that equals the probability of finding a needle in ten haystacks! Where had the naturalist genes come from, from Mrs. Granpa? Speaking of which, Mr. Granpa never knew what his wife’s hobby was while she was alive.

When he was young, Wilfred liked to spend precious time in the forest, being fascinated by nature, like Charles Darwin; what Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter is doing with her precious time, it is doubtlessly true and discouraging to Mr. Granpa that she is every bit the naturalist he was, and the his much valued talent is also every bit as dead as Wilfred. There is no more hope in Mr. Granpa that his endowment will resurrect in his descendant, so his private owned company, Grandfather’s Engineering Estate (GEE) will be public owned once he’s passed away. The thought of it makes Mr. Granpa grab for the tissue box.

Mr. Granpa could once run the Boston Marathon, play hockey at the NHL, and challenge Arnold Schwarzenegger to a body-building contest; that was all once. These days, Mr. Granpa feels defeated and tired, after the death of Wilfred, it only took him a month to gain thirty pounds from TV dinners, grow a medium-sized beer gut from 2 liters of alcohol consumption per day, and let his bushy white beard grow wild without trimming. Wrinkles appeared on his forehead, his walking pace slowed, and he sometimes have trouble keeping balance while standing; Mr. Granpa haven’t worked on a blueprint in five days, a record for him for procrastinating, and this is the sixth day and counting by hours! Mr. Granpa opens his eyes, lifts his head and gazes out into his 300 acre backyard from his lawn porch.

It is a sunny day, a red and yellow kite is in the sky, the string leading from somewhere behind a hedge cut of the Alps, a sign that Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter is still at work, the third week. Mr. Granpa then remembers that he had gone to sleep yesterday at 12 pm in this same lawn chair he’s slacked in, with an empty bottle of Merlot dangling in his left hand, his beard stained with…vomit, and his pants zipper undone, Mr. Granpa realizes what a terrible state he’s in. aw, it’s all part of grieving, he thinks, and then another side of him thinks otherwise: com’on, old man, get up and get back in shape already, remember the days I mean two months ago, when you could still knock out an ox at the Mexican Stampede? You gotta let grieve alone now, and move on, your granddaughter will want her own granddad to get over it. Look, she’s already over it. Why aren’t you? At this thought, Mr. Granpa suddenly sits up tall and straight, and says, ‘so you’re saying my granddaughter is better than me? Is that what you mean brain? Well think again!’ at this declaration, Mr. Granpa rushes into the mansion, run to the gym, and kicks open the door, letting several sketches soar into the air. That’s when a sick feeling hits his stomach and a newly defiant Mr. Granpa is forced to retreat to the nearest washroom, putting a get-back-in-shape mid-summer resolution on hold for the next 20 minutes, during which Mr. Granpa had to overcome explosive diarrhea, gut-wrenching stomach somersaults, and credit consuming rapid toilet flushing. Boy is the hydro bill gonna be big this month, Mr. Granpa thinks painfully as another attack on his will power hits. Just accepting this is not the end is using up all of my energy, Mr. Granpa thinks, how am I gonna get through the exercise routine? After returning from the toilet bow-legged, Mr. Granpa does some stretches, twisting his left wrist and his neck in the progress. Five minutes on the treadmill set at level one later, Mr. Granpa concludes that his procrastination efforts for the last two months has left him in a much more serious condition than he anticipated. Mr. Granpa decides to start small.

It says Tuesday on the July calendar, or is it August already? Mr. Granpa is unable to tell which day of the week today is, finally he says ‘screw it…I can work fine without weekdays’. Mr. Granpa doesn’t remember the last time the grass in his garden being so slushy and wet under his sneakers, as he goes to water his rosebushes. It appears that the mud under the soft green grass bed has been over-watered, to create a slippery dark brown gunk, from above and afar the grass bed looks nice and fine, a closer inspection is another story. The rosebushes are spread out a few yards around the house, as Mr. Granpa trudges towards them, he can feel the muddy slush invading the fabric of his Nike sneakers, which were once white now are black. Did the gardener do this? Mr. Granpa thinks grumpily, and then remembers, oh yeah, the gardener went on vacation two weeks ago. He said he wanted to leave Mr. Granpa in peace for a while, plus, the gardener said his daughter will tend to it during his absence, he’s sure Mr. Granpa’s daughter is gifted at gardening, his eye can tell. Well, Mr. Granpa thinks, he got it sorta right.

Here, Mr. Granpa’s sneakers sank an inch into the muddy slush, as he gets nearer to the rosebushes he had come all the way out here to water. ‘Dingy, dingy, dang! I knew I should have gotten artificial grass for the garden!’ Mr. Granpa curses to himself, trudging on with temper building within his lungs. ‘ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!’ Mr. Granpa loses his footing, trips, and falls face-flat into the muddy slush under his soft grass bed. Mr. Granpa gets a face-plant in the wet muddy slush, and crawling back up standing, he looks pissed.

‘Memory, you have died before me!’ Mr. Granpa bellows into the cloudless blue sky, several birds changes their flight course to avoid Mr. Granpa’s sonic voice-blast. ‘Why did you lure me into this mud-trap without reminding me to BRING MY CANE? Now I have to do EXTRA laundry!’ Mr. Granpa gets up and trudges and stomps back to his porch to get his cane to lean on, so he won’t fall again once he ventures back into the slippery muddy garden. Having a coat of dark brown mud on the entire front of his body, Mr. Granpa looks like a recreation of Clayface with extra facial hair. His beard (previously white) is now a dripping mass of dark wet mop that resembles tumbleweed that has tumbled through the sludge of Passchendaele during WWI.

Mr. Granpa, cursing in sailor tongue, suddenly remembers why he bothered to trudge into the garden in the first place: he is here, covered in mud, to water his rosebushes. ‘Where’s, my, water, sprinkler? Oh…MEMORY, YOU HAVE DIED BEFORE ME…AGAIN!’ He roars like a tyrannosaurus rex. A mile away, a retired old couple of former 911 rescue workers are driving down a silent country road, they are so startled by what appears to be the sound of the Twin Towers falling down that the husband at the wheel crashes their tiny Volkswagen into a roadside tree. A hailstorm of unripe apples later, the husband, dazed, turns to his dazed wife and says ‘I think I just heard the Twin Towers falling down, again. Shall we go check?’ They have absolutely no idea that what they think is the Twin Towers falling down is actually Mr. Granpa’s scream over memory-loss echoing through the countryside.

Fuming, Mr. Granpa trudges back to the lawn porch, snatches the water sprinkler in a way that if it is to have feelings it will have cried out, and trudges back out onto the garden grass bed, still dripping with mud. His shirt and pants are caking with muddy slush, and some of it has leaked into his tightie-whities, he trudges onward. Mr. Granpa sees the red and yellow kite in the sky, soaring in circles, he loses his footing, tries to stabilize himself with a cane he forgot to bring, and falls bald-spot first into the muddy slush. ‘ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!’ Mr. Granpa lies on his back in the mud that has now completely coated his body from head to toe, screaming protests. ‘MEMORY, YOU HAVE DIED BEFORE ME…FOR THE THIRD TIME!’ The water sprinkler is out of his reach for him to beat to a pulp and take out his anger upon, and he is now a full-body Clayface in his late years.

Mr. Granpa gets up on his feet – he has lost one of his shoes in the process of falling down, and doesn’t even think of finding it in the mud, he just wants to craw back to his porch now – and loses his footing and falls face-first again back into the muddy ground. ‘ARRRRRRRRRRRG!’ Mr. Granpa is worn out by all the cursing he has done; his arghs are getting shorter. Panting, Mr. Granpa attempts to lift himself up onto his feet; and just as he gets his full breath back… ‘ARGH!’ with this final argh of protest for the unfairness he’s forced by fate to endure, Mr. Granpa experiences everything afterwards in slow motion. Mr. Granpa feels until forever until his gaping mouth is greeted by the dark brown stuff he presumes is mud he’ll be eating and then having diarrhea over. Having never tasted mud, it tastes awfully like…chocolate. Oh Lord, Mr. Granpa thinks, if the fertilizer in my garden has been turned into chocolate, please let it be low-fat dark chocolate, my liver can’t handle 40 grams of sugar anymore! Mr. Granpa has another taste at the dark brown substance…it’s…it’s…LOW-FAT 100% DARK CHOCOLATE! (He’s sure of the flavor; other than being a great engineer, Mr. Granpa is also a great chocolate taster.)

‘Surprise!’ Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter, her golden blond hair bathing in the sunlight, her face beaming with joy, gazes down at Mr. Granpa, who has just got to a sitting position to scoop up more handfuls of the dark brown chocolate from the ground of his garden.

‘AH!’ Mr. Granpa startles in surprise; a mile away, a pigeon nesting along the windowsill of a penthouse apartment is so startled by this cry it falls 25 stories and lands in the road moments before the wheels of a tow truck drives over it. Where’d you come from?’ Mr. Granpa gets onto his feet and takes a long, sweeping look at his granddaughter that suggests he misses her a lot. Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter is wearing a nightgown covered with stains of mud, cells of plants, and twig bits, her bare hands and feet are even dirtier, making her look like someone who has lived the past month in the wilderness (close).

‘I came from where I went to.’ Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter smiles and says.

‘Why, what in hammers are you doing here?’ Mr. Granpa is still a bit shocked by his camping granddaughter appearing out of thin air so all of a sudden.

‘I’m here to celebrate your birthday of course!’ Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter shouts excitedly. ‘It’s your own birthday and you’ve forgotten about it? Gosh, you are getting old, what happened to the old man who can stop a train in its tracks?’

‘Well, I-I have been slacking off lately…I must admit to that and…’

‘Don’t say another word,’ his granddaughter stands over to put a sleeveless arm around a chocolate covered Mr. Granpa, ‘so, do you like my birthday present to you or what?’

‘Why, it’s-well it is WONDERFUL! But-but how did you-what did you do exactly?’

‘I hired the chocolate maker in town and told him to make enough low-fat dark chocolate to cover your garden with, he did and it was amazing! I also told him not to say a word to you, because I want it to be a big surprise. I think he likes me pretty well.’

‘And-and where did you get the money? This must have cost…oh Lord!’

‘Easy p-easy, I borrowed your credit card. Here’s the receipt, by the way.’ Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter hand him a strip of paper from a pocket on her gown, the grand total has 5 zeros after a 1.

‘Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.’ A deep, long sigh from Mr. Granpa follows, and then: ‘Jeez, young lady! You took my credit card without consulting me first? You should have asked-I mean-ah gosh!’ Mr. Granpa looks like he’s about to grab for the tissue box.

‘Well…I did think hard about asking you, but you never would have said yes then and I’ll never be able to impress you (mind you, dad said you were a demanding father) and it wouldn’t be a big surprise! Since you never did like dad (what he told me), I don’t think you’ll ever like me much either, so I stayed off your way.’

Something awakens in Mr. Granpa with a pang that feels awfully like guilt, a big chunk of guilt.

‘That’s not true! I do not not like you. You’re always my granddaughter and I love you and I always will, I truly do, because you are a part of me and there’s no way I don’t love someone who’s a part of me, whatever the difference we have…I’m just…you know…kinda shocked at first that your father never inherited any of my traits, and there’s almost nothing in us we have in common, so I feel disconnected…and I didn’t have your grandmother there to cheer me up…and…I-I’m lost, really, really lost…I lost the understanding of love, it’s not like engineering, there’s no way to engineer love, to measure it, it’s just…a mutual thing.’ A chocolate covered grandfather saying these words is even weirder that an elephant tap dancing while singing Ode to Joy through its trunk, it is also, like an elephant tap dancing while singing Ode to Joy through its trunk, a sight to behold.

‘Aw, that’s okay.’ Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter gives her granddad another pat on the back, takes out a cup from a pocket in her gown, and scoops a cup of low-fat dark chocolate from the ground and gives it to Mr. Granpa. ‘I don’t know why you prefer this kind of chocolate though, it tastes bitter to me.’

‘Oh, young lady, you’ll understand once you’re my age.’ Mr. Granpa says, and chuckles a little laugh. ‘Say, I never found out what you liked to do, what do you like to do? I never asked your father that question when he’s young and sure the heck feels guilty for missing that opportunity forever.’

‘You mean other than exploring, planting plants, playing with animals, camping, canoeing, hiking, flying kites, staying up late, stargazing, sunbathing, ice cream, jumping in leaves piles, watching laundry spin, discovery channel, watering seeds, climbing trees, making sandcastles, swimming, biking, writing in a diary, making flower necklaces, running, dancing, mountain climbing, driving a car, scuba-diving, riding in a submarine, collecting insects, filming nature, recycling, reading jokes, drinking from a stream, watching sunsets, riding roller coasters, mountain skiing, snowboarding, going on waterslides, monkey wrestling, riding horses, racing horses, swimming with dolphins, looking at sharks, getting whales off beaches, collecting litter, collecting leaves, sketching, taking photographs, calamari, daydreaming about going to Antarctica and a few other places, flying kites, flying five kites at once, and a some other things I can’t think of right now?’

‘Err…yes, go on.’

‘I like charting. Making maps.’

‘You do?’

Yeah, I like making maps and drawing and sketching and all that. Oh right, I also like making birdhouses, should have never forgotten that, and harvesting honey, you get to work around bees, it’s interesting, and fresh honey tastes really good! You should try it out sometime…’

‘You said you like mapmaking! Wow, me too, how come you never told me?’ Mr. Granpa is seeing hope that his some of his talent might actually have passed onto his granddaughter, Mr. Granpa is so happy to feel this glimmer of hope he considers doing the chicken dance in joy, but overrules that thought.

‘You never asked did you?’

‘I never did. I’m so sorry. I-I should have got to know you better. How could I be so stupid?’

‘Hey! Now’s my perfect time to get to know you too!’ Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter exclaims. ‘And look what I found in the hedges, it’s a key! Hopefully it’s the right one to the chest you mentioned, there’s surprisingly very few photographs of mom and dad around, they didn’t take photos that much, that’s why I do a lot. Do you have a picture of mom and dad getting married?’

‘Actually I do, it’s in that chest, let’s go now and open it! And then let’s have some breakfast…’

‘Actually, it’s 12 noon, it’s time for lunch.’

‘Oh, alright then.’ Mr. Granpa feels a tiny need to reach for the tissue box. I slept through morning! Oh, the horror! The horror, Mr. Granpa thinks. ‘And I think I’ll have to take a bath, to wash out the chocolate, and so must you, young lady, you look like you came out of a pigsty.’

‘Okey dokey! But you better get out again and get it all in buckets, there’s a rain coming, don’t spoil your birthday present!’ Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter skips ahead of him towards the lawn porch, the red and yellow kite under her arms, her golden hair flowing in the light breeze.

‘Oh yeah! Can-can you remind my old brain again what your name is? I seem to have forgotten…’

Mr. Granpa’s granddaughter comes skipping back to his side, ‘My name? It’s a long story, Lemme tell you about it…’

The End

Published on 2011/07/16 at 8:00 PM  Leave a Comment  

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