“Joel,” he said.waybackthen

Joel looked at him through raging eyes. His temper, along with years of frustration and confusion, were welling up.

Joel screamed at Grandpa, “I’m going in there and telling her what I think! She can’t keep treating me this way!”

Joel headed to the kitchen, big feet pounding the carpet. Grandpa followed behind tentatively, well not tentatively, but quietly. These ongoing fisticuffs were nothing new, and Grandpa felt it would be helpful to be close at hand in case he could help, or at least soften the blows and the tears.

And that was from both sides.

Rosie did the dishes in the hot, cluttered kitchen. The radio played her favorite music, that old bluegrass she kept holding onto. The puppy played in the corner with his chew bone, one from the big bag they got for free from the animal shelter, being they were struggling so hard. She didn’t hear Joel walk in and stand behind her.

“I told you I’m going out! I’m sick and tired of you keeping me in here like a caged animal!” He yelled loud enough to be sure she could him over the sounds in the kitchen.

How could Rosie not hear him, with the bellowing boom that was his voice?

Grandpa stood watching. And waiting. Rosie was visibly shaken, like she always was with Joel lately. She wondered where it all came from with him, the anger. Certainly not from their side of the family. She was at her wit’s end with him, couldn’t handle it anymore. It’s all too much, she thought. I’m going to lose my mind.

“Joel,” Rosie said. “Just stop it Joel.”

Joel’s face was red and his eyes bugged. He picked up a bag of flour from the counter and strong-armed it against the window. The sound of smashing glass led to a moment of quiet.

Grandpa walked up between them, looking at Joel. “Son we’ll clean all this up later, don’t you worry.” Rosie had tears streaming down her face. “We’ll take care of this later Momma, don’t you worry.” Grandpa took Joel by the arm. He flinched and tried to resist, then eased.

“Let’s take a walk outside,” Grandpa said.

They went out the back door and down the steps toward the shed. Grandpa sat down on the park bench- the one Johnny made for them right after Joel was born. They never knew for sure if Johnny was the father, and in this case, time didn’t tell them different. They hadn’t seen Johnny since the accident way back then, but they, like most people, carried on the best they could. Joel sat down next to Grandpa then stood straight back up with his chest heaving. Grandpa looked up at him long and hard. He’s shot up like a bean pole, he thought. Must be up to at least a hundred and ninety pounds by now, all brawn and boy he is.

Joel stood over Grandpa. He said something profane under his breath, eyes tearing but stern. Grandpa got up and walked into the shed, pulling out two fishing poles. The first he had since he was young, and the second he bought for Joel when he first taught him to fish, two summers ago.

Felt like many more.

“Come on,” Grandpa whispered, handing him a pole. Grandpa started toward the path.

“Okay.” Joel trailed behind him, down the path to the pond.

The same pond where Grandpa learned to fish.


2 thoughts on “WAY BACK THEN

  1. I said it on fb and I’ll say it here. Pete, you are a genius at discovering the drama in everyday lives.

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