This is more a memory than fiction, something from my childhood.
by P. Sean ONeal (originally written 1999)
One of my favorite childhood memories is of a regular ritual I shared with my grandfather. When I and my parents would visit, he and I would slip off just the two of us. We’d get in his Bronco and drive down to this small country store. It was a simple affair, with fruit displayed in wooden baskets out front. In stead of the soda machines you see today there was an old Coca-Cola Cooler you got your drinks out of and paid at the register. I’d head for the candy section as soon as I was out of the car, I knew the way well. First there was the big bag of Hersey’s kisses I’d wrestle off the shelf, and then pulling it behind me I’d head for the wax candy. I’d pick through an assortment of wax harmonica’s and wax lips and other shapes until I couldn’t carry anymore. Hauling my treasure in my arms and shirt and pockets and where ever else I could think to carry something I’d make my way to the register where my grandfather waited. I think he got a kick out of seeing me struggling to carry all that candy.
There was an old gentleman who ran the store whose name I don’t think I ever knew. He and my grandfather would be talking. They’d watch patiently as I made my way that last distance to the register. I always dropped something and then came the comedy of me trying to figure out how to pick up what I’d dropped without dropping anything else. I still remember times when I’d make a pile on the floor and then would do a quick relay race between my pile and the register until I had it all on the counter. They’d laugh watching me and I laughed too… it was a game for all of us. Then came time to get a coke, I’d struggle to push the heavy lid open and peer over into the cooler that was taller than I was. It was lucky for me I was always very good at climbing. I’d pick out a coke or an orange or grape soda… those grape Nehi’s, I can almost taste one now. With everything on the counter my grandfather would pay for it all, and the old gentleman would put it all in a bag. Then we’d head back to his Bronco for the ride back to his house.
Once we got back I’d get settled on the front porch. My grandfather would sometimes go inside and get his guitar or his banjo. Before long we were both comfortable, he’d play simple tunes while I listened and we’d share the chocolate. Sometimes I’d pretend to play one of the wax harmonicas, in a sort of mock duet with him. The wax candy was always a lot of fun… as much a toy as a confection. Making silly faces with the wax lips was a favorite game. Eventually I’d settle down and he would tell me a story. Sometimes we’d just talk. I never really felt like a child around him, he treated me as a person. Thinking back it seems like almost anything I did made him smile. He made me feel good about myself, a feeling I still carry with me today.
Of all the afternoons I spent on that porch with him, the ones I remember most are the times when it rained. You could always tell, the air would be a little cooler and there would be a wind that came over the mountains. If you tried, you could smell the rain coming in on that wind. I’d snuggle up against him, sometimes listening to him talk, sometimes just quiet and we’d watch the rain roll in over Draper’s mountain. In the end, with the rain coming down, I’d fall asleep. My only lullaby the gentle sound of the rain, a distant roll of thunder, and the warmth of my grandfather next to me.