• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 10

Stack them up

"And you're sure you've got all of them?"

"Yes, Gran, but do you really want to do this?  A bouquet is more traditional."

"It's what he'd have wanted.  He never liked flowers anyway."

I helped my grandmother navigate the gravel path to reach Grandpa's memorial.  Her walking frame kept catching on the stones, so it was a strange sound, shuffle, step, drag, shuffle, step, drag.  I had two carrier bags over the arm that wasn't trying to steady her.

We reached the plot and looked at the crisp gold lettering newly inscribed on the stone.  It was strange to see him reduced to a name and a couple of dates.  Gran seemed to be holding up well, considering.

"Okay, John, you can set it up now."

I gently let go of her arm and put the two bags on the ground.  From the first I took a small block of moulded concrete.  It looked like a tree trunk, but it was a manufactured garden ornament taken from my grandmother's house.  She'd have to find something else for the bird bath to sit on.  The fake stump was slimy with real lichen and moss.

"Move it a little nearer to him, John.  You know his eyesight had gone downhill at the end."


Stack them up

I said nothing, thinking it wasn't the only thing going downhill.  Next was the bag with the toy cars.  I took all five of them out and laid them next to the stump.

"I want you to stack them up.  We'll start with the red Mini.  You know he hated that car?"

I did know.  I'd heard the story many times, his first car and his older sister's cast-off.  Next was the pink convertible, which had been Gran's first car.

"Put it on top.  Squash it down, or you'll never get the others on.  Now, for the Nova.  He drove that car for fifteen years.  Never got tired of telling me that joke, No-va is Spanish for doesn't go."  Gran sniffed after she said that.

Next was the toy version of a blue BMW.  Quite the step up I thought.  The detailing on the model was nicely done so it was a shame to squash it too.  The final car added to the pile was a two seater sports car.

"I don't remember Grandpa ever driving one of these," I said.  

Gran smiled and replied, "No, but he always wanted a Dodge Viper.  Still talked about it when he was in the hospital at the end.”

I nodded.  That sounded like Grandpa.  I waited to see if she wanted to say anything else but her gaze moved between the memorial stone and the strange totem, then settled on the middle distance.

“Do you know,” she finally said, “I think I can hear him revving the Viper's engine?  Typical boy racer.”