by Elliott Cox
I wouldn’t say that Grandpa was secretive about his ninety-three years of life; I think he was just a humble soul. He never volunteered information, but when I asked the right question, he would always spin one hell of a yarn for me. When Grandpa told me a story, the only pause came when he asked me to pour three fingers “of the good stuff” for him, which I gladly did; the more rotgut scotch he drank, the more vivid his story became.
One time, I asked Grandpa if he had ever killed anybody. His rocking chair stopped and he stared through me for what seemed, at the time, like several hours. That was the only time I have ever felt uncomfortable around the old man. When his rocking chair started moving again, Grandpa asked me to pour him three fingers, and the tension crumbled with his voice. I handed him his scotch and sat down on my usual spot on the wooden porch, waiting for a story, or at least an answer to my question, but I never got either. I asked him several more questions that evening and only got clipped answers…no stories.
I’m sitting on my spot on the porch now, picking my way through the cedar chest that I inherited from Grandpa two weeks ago. I found three large gems hidden in the false floor of the chest, and now I know I’m finally going to hear the one story that Grandpa couldn’t tell me.