Blackhumouristpress's Blog

September 9, 2014

Last Day

Filed under: Detroit,Short Story — blackhumouristpress @ 8:25 am
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“Ha! There he is, there’s the kid! You ready to go?”
Walt looked at his grandfather who he had not seen in a few months that had been stored away in a nursing home in suburban Detroit. Eddy was wearing a white summer suit, with white shoes and a white hat. He was sitting on his side of the room that had been his home for close to six months. The television was so loud that one could hear it half way down the hall. Eddy grabbed the remote control off of the nightstand of his cellmate who had the blaring volume going night and day. Eddy turned off the television, opened the window, which was always closed with drawn blinds and dropped the remote control to the ground below. Eddy’s roommate looked at him incredulously as he leaned forward and said the first few words uttered between them for close to a half-year.
“I know you’re not deaf. You’re just an asshole. Nobody visits you or likes you and so you keep that idiot box as loud as you possibly can stand for companionship. Peter Francis Geraci doesn’t know you or give a fuck about you… You following me? Are you Dracula? What’s with the blinds always being drawn and the windows never open? You are a selfish fuck, Seymour. I leave you with no television for the time being and a wide-open window. Enjoy the sun. You won’t get much when they bury your ass in the ground… I’m ready, Wally.”
The plan was for Walt to visit his grandfather who served as his father. Walt was living in Chicago and could not get to Detroit often enough to see the man who served as his dad, his whole life.
Eddy lived through The Great Depression as a child only to be sent to the Pacific during World War II for five years as a young adult. He raised two children and then raised two children belonging to his son who was unwilling and incapable of being a dad and father. Wally felt guilt over letting his grandfather rot in a nursing home and upon hearing that his aspiration Pneumonia was incurable, Wally intended on getting Eddy to his home in Chicago to live out his days with someone who knew him and loved him. Wally wasn’t ready to receive a feisty man capable of walking. He had heard from the person in charge of the nursing home that his grandfather was bedridden and incapable of walking anymore.
“You rented a Corvette?! That’s a good way to go, m’boy. It’s the car that is clearly American that the Krauts and Japs cannot bury… Put the top down on this honey.”
“Where are we going, grandpa? They told me you have trouble breathing and no longer could walk. Where do you wanna go?”
Walt had heard that terminally ill patients sometimes have a day unlike any day that they have had in years. Eddy was having one. Eddy wanted to see a baseball game.
Walt and Eddy sat out in the right field bleachers at Comerica Park where the Detroit Tigers play. Eddy sat smiling with his white Pork Pie hat and horned rimmed sunglasses. It was a sunny day with low humidity.
“When you’re young, you don’t think about a beautiful day like this. You’re gonna have a million more. You’re gonna live forever and old age is for other people but not for you. I got Malaria twice in my twenties during the war and my feet were so rotten from being in wet boots during the war, living on shit food and no sleep and I never thought I would be killed. Politicians send young men to fight their battles because young men think they’re invincible… You still invincible?”
Walt didn’t feel invincible any longer. Being in his forties, he knew that life was getting shorter by the day.
“As a young boy, I saw Ty Cobb play. I didn’t realize for a long time who he was and what he meant to the game and ball in Detroit… I said I would never come to this newfangled place but I gotta say that this is all right… Nice park.”
Eddy hacked and hacked and hocked up a clam and spit it in his empty beer cup. Wally watched his grandfather carefully. Eddy noticed the look of concern on his grandson’s face and lightened the moment with an old tongue twister.
“It’s not the coughing often. It’s the coffin they carry you off in…”
Eddy refused to walk around with an oxygen tank. After the game, they went to eat at a restaurant in Greektown. Eddy ordered some flaming cheese and only had a bite. Solid food was hard for him to swallow. Food sometimes went down to his lungs instead of to his stomach and the chance of choking was always high. Eddy had a red wine and smiled. Walt didn’t know what to do with his grandfather next and so he asked.
“I’d like to go to a strip club… There’s nothing more beautiful than the female body. Your grandmother was a rare beauty back in the day. Nice smile, nice legs… and real firm tits. Tits are an amazing thing. You can’t properly fuck them but they feel nice to touch the way a kid pets a dog or a rabbit… They just feel nice.”
The duo found a strip club around the corner. On the door of the place was a sign that said, “Tits and Tigers- get a free beer and half price lap dance with a Detroit Tigers ticket stub”. Walt drank his beer while a young woman writhed around on top of his grandfather while he groped her breasts and kissed her neck. Within an hour, they were back in the Corvette.
“I used to go to dance halls before the war. I’d meet a new girl every week. I always made that girl feel like a queen for the day. Sometimes you’d get a little action and sometimes you got nothing. It was a lot like fishing. Sometimes you got a trophy and other times your didn’t get a bite… Swell gal today. Fake tits are interesting. They didn’t have such a thing back when I was young. They flopped a bit if they were big and that was fine… Things change.”
Walt didn’t know what to do with his grandfather. He started to drive back towards the nursing home when Eddy asked if they could drive clear across the state to see the sun set over Lake Michigan. It was late in the day and it would be close. Walt drove the Corvette as fast as he could down the interstate towards Holland, Michigan and arrived after the sun had set. Eddy smiled as the dimly lit sky turned to black.
“And that’s how life is… You think you have more time than you do. Each day is like a lifetime and the morning holds so much promise. As the sun begins to set, you realize time is short and everything you want to do is no longer possible… Everyday is like a lifetime and every time you fall asleep is a little like dying. You close your eyes and float away to a place within your own mind.”
Walt found a hotel room with two beds. Walt propped his grandfather upright so that he could breathe easier. The wall A/C unit provided white noise that allowed them both to fall asleep and prevented Walt from noticing the change in the breathing pattern of his grandfather. Walt awoke to find his grandfather gasping for air and unconscious. Walt felt guilty that he allowed his grandfather to talk him into a whirlwind tour in one day while being so sick. Walt called for an ambulance that took a long time to arrive. It seemed like hours. Walt asked Eddy to squeeze his hands but there was no response. Walt kept talking to Eddy in hopes of keeping him alive knowing that life was slipping away. He suddenly said things he wishes he had said before.
“I stopped hugging you and kissing you at the age of twelve because I thought that men didn’t do those things. I never thanked you for taking over where my parents failed. I thought I had more time to show my appreciation… Had I known you were going to check out today, I would have stayed up all night talking to you. You’ve lived 94 years but you could live 200 and I would still miss you and turn to you with questions and guidance. I’ve had you my whole life… and I will miss you more than I can say… I love you, grandpa.”
And with that, Eddy’s eyes opened for a full second and then closed and he stopped breathing. Life had ended. There would be no funeral service or a casket for Eddy. He was cremated and his remains placed in a marble urn with a death certificate. Before returning back to Chicago, Walt sat on a hill overlooking Lake Michigan on a warm summer night. The beach and park on the bluff was filled with people waiting to see the sun set on a beautiful day. Walt sat quietly with the urn next to him as the large ball grew smaller and smaller and then disappeared. A million stars appeared around a half moon. Eddy was somewhere among the stars that go on forever.

Edward Arthur Calahan Jr. 4-20-1920 to 8-30-14-
The greatest man you never met.

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