"Waiting for Grandpa"
Nervously I stood waiting.
It had been twenty minutes since the phone call and I knew that his unwashed, white pick-up would soon be before me, like a giant Goliath that I, a boy would have to face. I knew he would be angry; he had sounded that way on the phone. He hated coming into town. I imagined that he would be rehearsing things to say to me during the twenty-five minutes it would take him to get here. I imagined he would have already smoked two cigarettes and the cab of the truck would be fogged with the residue of nicotine and bad breath.
My heart was beating so hard I could feel the blood knock against my neck bursting to get out. I waited two minutes longer. I asked myself why I had called in the first place. After all he had warned me. He had told me that he wasn’t going to come and get me if I changed my mind. But I didn’t change my mind; it was all a cruel joke. Of course if I tried to explain that to him, he wouldn’t listen. He never listened to me. I was a child, to him anyway. In reality I was thirteen, almost fourteen and had stopped acting like a child the moment my mom plopped me on his front door.
I shouldn’t have called. I should have just walked the twenty miles and somehow found my way along the dirt roads that all looked the same. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited so long. After all, the joke was played on me before it even got dark and now only the street lights and a few fireflies lit the sky. I waited and saw a car pass. They drove slowly here so I was able to see in the passenger seat, one of the guys from school that had been in on it. He looked at me and I almost sensed that he felt sorry for what had happened, although he never said anything about that later on. A few more cars passed and then I saw it. I knew instantly that it was him because one of the lights on the front of the pick-up glowed yellow and the other white. I wanted to run. I wanted to take back the phone call and the angry voice I heard on the other end.
He pulled off the highway and the truck stood waiting; waiting for me to get inside. I knew that if I took too long he would just get more upset, yet I was a child. A child that didn’t want to face him, an angry adult who had warned me not to do something that I did anyway.
I got in the truck and looked at my grandfather. He looked back but didn’t say a word. I was right about the smoke and I saw a shrunken cigarette in his left hand. I closed the door and he flipped the truck around to head back into the woods. I stared out the front window watching as the headlights carefully formed each turn and straightaway in the road. I wondered briefly how he knew when the turns where coming, we were going so fast. Then I stared at the radio. It wasn’t on but the green lights from it flickered every time the truck hit a bump. Cautiously I stole a glance at my grandfather. He was looking straight back at me. I braced myself.
“Damn it, I told you,” he began. There followed the same speech he gave me the night before. This time, however, the words stung and sliced at my heart. The words, so carefully crafted it was as if the night before was a mere dress rehearsal, brought embarrassing tears to my eyes. I tried to speak, but my voice was caught on something. All I could do was listen, listen to him tell me over and over how stupid I was. I knew I was stupid; he didn’t have to tell me that. I knew that I had nowhere else to go and that he was doing this as a favor to my mom. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.
“My kids would never have acted this way!”
“I’m not your kid.” I shouted. Suddenly, I was in a rage. Forgotten was the fear of the man, forgotten was the fear of his hand and belt. I would talk back and he would listen. He had no idea what I had been through. I had been tortured, mocked and humiliated. I didn’t need to get it now. “I didn’t ask to come here. I didn’t want to come here. I hate this place. Why are you being so mean I didn’t do anything wrong. The only thing I wanted was to make some friends. You have no idea what happened to me today, you are just so stubborn you never want to listen.”
I don’t remember the rest of that conversation, I do, however, remember the spanking I got when we finally got home. I remember the tightening in my stomach as I arched over, my hands on my ankles, as the loutish leather struck again and again. He never wore the belt he used to discipline; no it was too horrible a thing for that. Worn out from striking skin rather than keeping up pants, the belt hung from a nail by his bedroom door; a place that gave easy access. I always wanted to take that belt and throw it in the fireplace, but I never did. No it hung from that nail like a trophy on display up until the day he died.