23 January 2007

Nonsense and Freewrite

My grandfather's house had this room, at the front of the house, that my brothers and I, as children, were not allowed to enter. Looking back, it's completely possible that we were allowed to go in there, but there was something secret and pure about it. It was the only room in the house that seemed to ever have light, this due to its location facing the street, looking out over a southern California suburban paradise. The rest of the house was dark and cold. I can't even remember the colors of the living room, except the gray. The gray smothered everything. Brick walls, cold tiled floor and ugly Grandpa rug, stone fireplace, all gray.

The kitchen countertops were all a tacky green marble, a remnant from the 50s or the 70s or some other time where people must have been color blind. An empty space between the cupboards and counters created a bar area, and at the end of the kitchen was a small hallway through a washroom to the door that opened to the backyard. The small rectangle window on the door was the only window in the kitchen.

In the backyard was a swimming pool, shaped like a lima bean or a kidney, surrounded by decaying grass. The pool shone pristine and blue, bright as a diamond, bright as the forbidden room. In the deep end, 8 feet down, bolted to the bottom, was a bronzed seahorse.

We - my parents and three brothers - would visit my grandfather in the summertime, excited for the chance to swim in a pool. Growing up in Hawaii, you would think swimming wasn't a big deal. We could go to the beach whenever we wanted, but to have a pool all to ourselves, where no one could bother us and we could ignore the rest of the world, that was treasure.

My grandfather, Harry, watched from the patio, protected from the sun by a beige awning. Every once in awhile he'd walk up the pathway toward the pool only to stop halfway there, at a weathered sundial. The stone of the thing cracked and it had lost its color ages ago, but the grass at it's wide circular foot flourished and each blade hung over itself, pulled down by its own weight. He'd stand there with his hands on his hips, fingers stroking the corduroy in search of stimulation, eyes fixed on the gnomon.

I was afraid of my grandfather. I was 9 or 10, maybe 6 or 7, shit I don't know. The fact is years would pass between seeing him; he was nothing more than a stranger I was related to.

As he stood before the sundial squinting his wrinkled gray eyes, watching so hard it seemed to hurt him, I walked over and stood next to him.

"What are you doing Grampa?" I asked.

He looked down at me with those gray eyes, reached his hand out to touch me, dropped it on the back of my neck. I froze under his leathery palms, tried not to imagine the thin hairs growing from the back of his hand. He lifted his hand and looked at it, inspected the moisture that clung to my neck from the swimming pool and now clung to his palm. He rubbed his hands together and looked at down to me again.

"Trying to make the shadow move faster," he said.

16 January 2007

Short Writing Assignment

My grandfather’s days had been reduced to staring at, not watching, daytime television on the faded blue couch in his living room. He kept the curtains drawn all the time. With the sun shut out, shadows colonized every surface, and the house seemed to exist in a perpetual state of gray. The once vibrant mountain scene, painted and hung above the fireplace by my grandfather, had long since lost its color, just as his thin, wrinkled body had lost its pigment. When he lifted his arm to aim the remote, his body trembled with the effort and the loose heap of cotton and corduroy would shake and dance like flags at half mast.
If I looked hard enough, I felt I could see right through him. In fact my brother and I would be playing with Hot Wheels or GI Joes on the cold hardwood floor and would forget he was even there at all. His voice was almost inaudible; a wandering whisper that tickled our ears then passed on and faded away. The television would get louder or the channel would change, his way of reminding us that we weren’t alone. I hesitate to call his existence living, but, as a six-year old, I couldn’t understand there was once more to this haunt of a man.
The only hint of a former life was a police badge, framed and mounted on a small portion of wall just to the left and perpendicular to the front door, a place suitable for a coat rack or an umbrella stand. I remember looking up at it, wondering how it maintained its shine in this house of ghosts. Now I couldn’t tell you the numbers, or if there were any at all, and I couldn’t testify to its design, or the city and department it came from. All I can say is this: looking back, my grandfather failed to block the panes of the semi-circled window on the front door, and occasionally the Pasadena sun forced its way through the small opening. When it did, the gold police badge lit up, illuminated amidst a dull haze, and became a reminder of a man I never knew.