Waiting To Live

Prompt courtesy of BeKindRewrite‘s Inspiration Mondays. Lots of great stories to read if you follow the link. This is probably pretty rough – just banged it out before work started up.

Grandpa helped me pack my bags while my parents were at work. We carried them downstairs and hid them in the laundry room. I knew we were safe because mom only ever did laundry on Saturdays.

“Rigid schedules are the key to happiness, dear,” she would say as she outlined the family activities and chores for the next month on the floor to ceiling calendar in the front room. Everyone had a colour, everyone had something to do, somewhere to be.

I was purple. I hate purple.

It was Tuesday night. Mom was at her book club, which really meant bar. Dad was working late, which could mean he was in another bar or between some tarts legs. My brother was mowing lawns in the rich neighbourhood on the hill.

Grandpa and I were stuffing two duffel bags full of clothes and books and cameras into the small cubby hole beside the dryer. We started planning and saving up a few months ago. Tomorrow I’d be on my way to Paris. Grandpa was there during the war. He said Holland is prettier, but maybe not in the way an eighteen year old girl thinks.

I couldn’t sleep at all. I stared at the clock and willed the minutes to march by. Grandpa knocked lightly and I kicked the twisted covers from my feet, got dressed and tiptoed downstairs to meet him. We pulled the bags from the cubby and started out through the back door.

We walked around the corner to the cab we’d ordered earlier. I hugged him tight and was worried about never seeing him again. I took a deep breath so I would remember what he smelled like. He always smelled like sawdust. Like all the years he worked in that mill had seeped into his skin, so that he was half lumber.

I dug my nose into his neck and closed my eyes tight and wanted to go back home. I knew I wasn’t ready for this. My parents would hate me. This was ridiculous, me running away in the middle of the night. It wasn’t scheduled.

Grandpa felt the tightness of my arms and pulled himself loose. He stooped over a bit to look me in the eye. He just stared until the tears stopped and then he smiled.

“If you’re waiting to live,” he said. “You’re already dead.”

I nodded and sat in the car after he opened the door for me. He pulled something from his pocket and pressed it into my hand, kissed my cheek and told me to send him a postcard. The car drove away and I turned and looked out through the rear window and watched him standing there under the streetlight, waving.


13 thoughts on “Waiting To Live

  1. Great story, Craig. You obviously have a lot to say about difficult childhoods from Owl and Raccoon’s histories, and this is another one. I got a bit confused about timings – took me a moment to work out we were a day or two later at “I couldn’t sleep at all last night”, so if there’s anything to work on it’s clarifying that.
    I loved Grandpa’s wisdom and the line about him being “half lumber”.

  2. Love. It.

    Especially the details, like that she’s purple, and her brother mows rich people’s lawns, and her grandfather is half lumber. Those things make it. Beautiful.

  3. “He always smelled of sawdust…he was half lumber.” Strong, meaningful description. Really brings your piece to life, makes it leap off the screen. I really enjoyed this, Craig. Nice one!

  4. Very lovely story. Kept you engaged and assuming various things about what kind it was and where it was going but where it ended up was just great. I actually want more than anything at this moment to know for sure what it was he pressed into her hand – money? a religious keepsake? a memento?
    Great work. The sentiment and language all has been deftly handled here.

      1. I know, I know… it’s just one of those moments where you want to but are never entirely sure if its better to know or not to know and if this was a big moment from a novel I’d be turning it around and around in my head for months! :D

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