- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I could not believe it. Jesse and Rachael seriously thought I was making this all up? A little anger started swirling around my thoughts. Fine. Let them think that, what the heck do I need them for anyway. Grandpa’s letter did say to tell no one.
I did my best to laugh with the girls. Since they were so eager to believe I was kidding, it didn’t take much on my part to have them buy in to my acting.
“Yup, you guys got me!”
Jesse hooted, “What in the world were you thinking?”
Rachael put her arm around me, “Trying to find a way to deal, huh?”
I thought about her comment for a moment. Was that it? Maybe this all wasn’t real, maybe I was deluding myself into thinking my grandpa was communicating with me. He was dead after all and the dead don’t speak.
“Sorry guys, I kinda took this too far.” I gave them a sheepish grin.
“Jesse, grab those letters, let’s help Gordie put this stuff away. It’s gotta be close to lunch – we should head over to the T-Ray for lunch.”
Ah, the T-Ray. Your typical small town burger joint. Sure, there was McDonald’s and a KFC in town, but you just couldn’t beat the Ray-Freeze and T-Burgers . . . my mind started to drift as I half remembered some summer lunch with my grandpa at the T-Ray. At the time, it seemed so odd for such a prim and proper old guy to want to hang out at a greasy burger joint with a kid . . . especially since he insisted on eating burgers with a fork and knife. I laughed to myself.
“What?” Rachael nudged me in the arm.
“Just thinking of my grandpa.”
She smiled and I noticed something. I had to catch myself for a moment. Whoa, this was a first. She had a cute smile. I mean, I guess I always knew she was cute – that’s what everyone always says. But she’s my friend and thinking about a girl that way, well, not quite something I was prepared for.
“Now whatcha thinking dork? Hey, what’s up with your eyes?”
I coughed and shook my head, “Um, sorry, just some dirt.” I quickly bent down and pretended to wipe my eyes.
Jesse yelled at us, “Come on guys, let’s race.”
She handed me the box of letters and I put it in my backpack. Right before I zipped it up, I decided to quickly check the dates one more time. I flipped through them and found that the next date was tomorrow. I guess enough weirdness for today.
That afternoon was as good as any summer day. We did race to the T-Ray, stuffed ourselves with fries, burgers and shakes. Spent a few hours down by Parsons Creek, just throwing stones, telling jokes, and basically forgetting about everything that had happened earlier in the day.
By the time I pulled my bike into my driveway, I was pretty exhausted. Mom wasn’t going to be home until late, at least that’s what her note said. Another Rotary meeting or something, blah, blah, meatloaf in the microwave, blah blah, not too much T.V., Love Mom.
I immediately flipped on the TV and grabbed a bag of chips out of the pantry. Meatloaf indeed.
After about an hour of surfing through the world of cable, my mind sorta wandered back to the letters. What were they? Was what happened today real? The questions finally took over and I grabbed my backpack and took out the box of letters.
Assembling them as we had done earlier in the day, I again noticed that all were marked with specific dates, and some with specific times. I couldn’t figure out any pattern, just that they were all in the future. I turned my attention to the notebook.
Carefully, I opened it – half expecting a dragon or wizard or Harry Potter to jump out and say “Boo.” All I found were the same blank pages. I reached into the backpack and took out the pen.
I sat there for a good ten minutes, and realized that I really missed my grandpa. I didn’t grow up with a dad (long story, not worth the time on the loser) and grandpa filled that obvious void. Him leaving me didn’t make any sense. That I now had a way to communicate with him . . . as strange as it sounded, I couldn’t resist trying again.
I took a real deep breath, exhaled, and started writing.
Hi Grandpa, it’s me (which maybe you already know) Geefore. I really miss you, I . . .
I had to remind myself quickly that he wasn’t always big on sharing “overt emotions”, and likely would want me to get to the point. I continued to write.
So, I have this notebook, I have these letters (which I HAVE NOT opened) and I have no idea what is going on. I read your earlier warning and just want you to know that I did end up telling my two best friends. You might remember them – Jesse – the hothead? Rachael, the smart one? Anyway, I share everything with them, so they were bound to find out eventually. I’m kind of hoping you will write back and tell me they’ll be OK. Especially since they do not believe in any of this. That sort of gives them a pass, right?
A pass? What the heck was I writing about. This was too strange.
OK, I’ll keep it short. I really miss you and I hope you write back and let me know how you are doing. Mom and I are fine, but we’d be better with you here. Though, I know if you could have stayed, you would have. Don’t worry, I’ll do everything you say and I won’t be too scared.
I looked at my words. I don’t think I had written anything longhand since my days in grade school and my penmanship definitely reflected that. Oh well, not much I could do. No spell check, no eraser, no delete key . . . I guess it would have to go as is.
I closed the notebook and waited.
And waited. I had a sinking feeling that I did not want to open the notebook and see the reply. Wasn’t I supposed to wait to read the letters? No, I think grandpa had said to not open the letters until the marked time and date. Nothing about writing him. In fact, I think he specifically said that I could communicate with him through the notebook. If that was true, then I had nothing to worry about. My nerves calmed and I decided to see if I had a reply.
You have made a terrible, terrible mistake. Do not correspond any further until you hear otherwise. I fear your friend is in danger now and has been marked. To save her you . . . . . .
The letter ended in a scribble. Obviously I should have followed my instincts and left the notebook closed. Though, maybe the message would have been in there and then I wouldn’t know about helping my friend. Which friend? I looked at the message again. Something had stopped grandpa from finishing his note. Great. A friend was in danger and I could do nothing about it. Closing the notebook, I ran to the phone and dialed Jesse’s phone number.
“Gordie?” Thank god Jesse picked up.
“Jesse – you gotta get over here quick. I just heard from my grandpa.” I was almost yelling.
“Gordie, come on, joke’s over.”
My heard skipped a beat. That’s right, they didn’t believe me. Crud.
“Just come over.” I tired to sound scared.
“I can’t, Dad says I have to help him with the VW tonight.” Jesse’s dad was a car nut. The latest project was rebuilding a “69 Volkswagen Bug that he had pulled from Tank’s Junkyard. For the last couple of years he had started getting Jesse involved – and not surprisingly, she loved it. Getting her over here would be too tough.
“OK, I’m coming over then.”
“That works – Dad thinks you're a good worker. Bring some extra clothes though – we’re going in deep tonight and it could get dirty.” Jesse giggled.
“You got it. I’m going to call Rach too, she’ll want to pitch in.”
“Good.” She hung up and I immediately dialed Rachael.
The phone rang several times, she wasn’t there. I gulped. Was she the friend that was going to be in trouble. I tried to remember what I had written – did I name names? Is that what the problem was – was there someone else reading on the other end? The other end of what? There were so many questions and I was not even close to having an answer to any of them. I closed my eyes and tried to recall what I had told grandpa.
. . . You might remember them – Jesse – the hothead? Rachael, the smart one? . . .
I had named them both, they were both in danger. No, grandpa had only mentioned one. Or maybe he was rushed and wasn't thinking. I had just talked with Jesse and she seemed to be fine. That left . . .Rachael. Oh my god, it was Rachael.
I dialed her house again. No answer.
I started to run out of the house, she did just live four doors down. Then thinking it might be of some use, I grabbed the notebook and the box of letters. As I sprinted through the front door, I could hear sirens coming down our street. Running at a dead sprint, I could tell the sirens were coming from behind me, towards me. I stopped and looked. There, in order, speeding down my street were a ladder truck, an ambulance and two cop cars. I turned towards Rachael’s house and couldn’t move. I could see smoke billowing past her front porch. The fire engine screeched to a halt. I could hear even more sirens wailing in the distance.
“RACHAEL!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. This broke my temporary paralysis and I flew toward the flames.
As I got closer to her house, my spirits lifted. It wasn’t her house; her house was not on fire. It was the neighbor’s. I could see Rachael standing on her front lawn looking at flames.
I slowly approached. She turned around.
I started crying. This surprised me, I don’t cry. I tried to hide my tears.
Rachael spoke softly, “Hey Gordie, what is it?”
How was I going to explain this?