ALREADY BEEN TO LAKE MEAD

“I just don’t think it’s gonna happen,” Harry said, sitting on the middle of his bed in his room with Grandpa.

“What’s not gonna happen?” Grandpa asked, reading the numbers on the drip that he’d just disconnected from him. He wrote them down carefully on the yellow legal pad that always sat beside Harry’s  bed.

“I’m never gonna get out of here Grandpa. The odds are too stacked against me.”

Finally free of  the bed Harry got up, rubbed his eyes and took a big yawn. He walked over to the window and parted the sheers to see outside.  “No one believes me anyway,” he said in a soft voice, as much to Grandpa as himself. He turned around and looked at Grandpa point blank, his big eyes thoughtful and filled with concern. “What do you think Grandpa?”

“Harry I told you over and over you just gotta play it smart. If you play it smart you’ll make it happen. You know you’re bright.”

“Yes, I am that,” he said, a smile forming on his lips as he considered this statement.  “I know it’s like you always say Grandpa, I have to envision it, right?

Grandpa lifted up his hand for a high five. Harry ran over to slap it. Grandpa raised it up higher so Harry couldn’t reach it.

“Come on Grandpa,” Harry said, laughing and jumping, trying to smack Grandpa’s hand, to no avail.

“Grandpa!”

“Now let’s go, we gotta get breakfast and get this day going. Your mother won’t be back ’til after lunch and we got lots to do. Your cousin’s coming and spending the night, remember?”

“Robert?”

“Yeh Robert,” Grandpa said, looking Harry in the eye and making toward the door. “Let’s go.”

Harry followed behind, “But Grandpa I’m not gonna be stuck with him like last time I’m tellin ya. I have things to do. Besides he doesn’t know anything about anything I talk about. You know, like when I told him that Thoreau stayed in his cabin all day and night and didn’t talk to anyone or do anything much but spend time in nature, he didn’t believe me. He said he sounds like the Unabomber.” Harry started to gesture with his hands, talking faster, getting worked up like he’s not supposed to do. “And that Grand Theft Auto—that’s a waste of time— I’m not gonna get stuck playin it with him no matter how hard he tries to make me.”

“Yeh Harry I know, that’s fine. Just be nice to him and if he doesn’t know what you’re talking about be patient.  As for Grand Theft, you don’t have to play, just tell him NO. You have your own things to do, just tell him that. It’ll turn out fine.”

“Okay, Grandpa. I’ll envision it.”

Harry scooted down the steps behind Grandpa and they made way into the kitchen. Mom had Grandpa stick around today to make sure Harry got his treatments on time and to help keep his day on track.  He only needed to be hooked up to the “machine” as he called, every five hours, and only for an hour at a time now–and not at night anymore.  When he was three years old and got out of the hospital that first time, he was on the machine at least three times as long. He felt like he never left the bed. So things had gotten much better in that regard.  Grandpa was the first one to learn how to do the treatments back then and had pitched in with Mom ever since. Who else was there to pitch in anyway?

Harry never really made a fuss about it neither.

The phone on the wall rang and Harry picked it up to Robert, going right into what time he’s gonna be there what they’re gonna do, asking what’s to eat.

“I don’t know what’s to eat Robert, Grandpa’s the only one here.”

Robert said, “Alright well be ready squirt. Get the Playstation out.”

“Yeh, yeh Robert,” said Harry, who hung up to Grandpa smiling at him in the doorway.

“Atta boy Harry.”

Grandpa put their breakfast sandwiches in the microwave and stood watching them spin ’round. Harry sat down at the kitchen table and put his chin in his hand, looking at Grandpa dreamily. “Grandpa, you say to play it smart. And you know I wanna go as soon as possible. Why won’t you come with me? You’d like it all I know you would.” Harry sighed heavily, then went into what Mom called his “persuasive tone”  “Remember when you told me the story about being at Lake Mead all alone, and walking and swimming and rock collecting and sleeping under the stars? And you said you weren’t scared? You said you never felt more alive? That story Grandpa. We can go there and do it all again. Or anywhere you want.”

Grandpa couldn’t help but beam at his grandson.  He was the only one who could talk straight-up to Harry about such things, and Harry would listen and engage him indefinitely. Much of what people said to Harry seemed to breeze right past him mostly.  And what he said breezed past them too.  He was always big-thinking and could get bull-headed too, particularly for someone so young- since the day he was born it seemed. “Nah Harry I told you, there’s no way. I have to stay here and take care of Mom and hold down the fort. You’re turning into a big man Harry, you’ll do fine on your own.”

“But Grandpa you told me you wanna get out of this ugly town too. And you said we’re best friends for life, so?”

“Harry you have to do it on your own,” he said, as he put a glass of juice and Harry’s plate down in front of him. “I’ve already been to Lake Mead. I’ve had my turn. It’s your turn now. You’re gonna have to get out of here yourself.”

Harry looked blankly at his plate then sat back in his chair and put his head back, closing his eyes tight. Grandpa looked down at him. “What are you doing Harry?”

“I’m envisioning,” he said.  “Best friends for life Grandpa?”

“Best friends for life.”

 

lakemead

 

 

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2 thoughts on “ALREADY BEEN TO LAKE MEAD

  1. This is fantastic, Pete. I love how you lure the reader in. It’s so authentic sounding and an extremely poignant relationship, especially with that role reversal. Beautiful work. 🙂

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