I’ve decided to finally add a little bit of what I’ve been working on my Free Reads page. It’s been a while. This new WIP is called Finding His Roots and is novella length. Keep in mind it is a WIP, and I am editing as I go, but I wanted to share a little with you now. I’d love to hear any feedback you might have! Enjoy!
“Okay, the camera is turned on, so all you have to do is talk. You don’t even need to look at the computer. It will just pick up everything you say,” James said as he settled back into his high wing-backed chair.
His grandfather leaned forward, squinting at the computer. “Hello!” he yelled suddenly, causing James and his grandmother to flinch. “My name is Lucien Do—”
“Pop! You don’t need to scream at the computer. It can hear you just fine. The microphone is really small, but sensitive.”
“Oh… all right.” His grandfather settled back into the couch next to his wife and stared at James. “Go ahead and ask your questions, then.”
James smiled, pleased his grandparents were finally agreeing to this. He had been trying to write down the family history for years, since he had become interested in genealogy. Once they had seen the progress he had made on a website, tracing their family up through Canada and back to France in the 1600s, they had been impressed and finally realized he was serious.
“I’d like to know more about how the two of you met,” James started. “What kind of meeting was it? How did you decide to date?”
“You’re not interested in that boring stuff,” his grandmother said, waving a hand. “What else do you want to know?”
“No really! This is important. I can add stories to the website, and I want future generations of the family to know! Weren’t you interested in how your parents met?” His grandparents offered vague nods. “If I don’t ask you, it will be lost someday far in the future. What am I supposed to tell my kids if they ask how the family was started? Now I can show them this,” James said, gesturing to the computer. Not that I’ll be having any kids, he added silently. Unless I find a partner who already has one, or who wants to adopt.
“Fine. If you’re so interested.” His grandmother smiled, and her eyes stared to glaze over as if she were looking into the past. “We met on a train.”
“That’s romantic,” James said with a smile when his grandmother paused. “What about the train? Just any train? Come on, Gram. I need more details than that!”
She huffed. At seventy-seven years old, his grandmother Julia was still a mostly private person, though she did love her grandchildren. And James knew she enjoyed talking about some bits of her past, even if she didn’t let on.
“It was a train in town, back when there were trains. I was going to work and took a seat in one of the cars. You see, I didn’t drive back then. You didn’t need to, because there were plenty of other ways to get around.”
“How old were you?”
“Let me think…. I was twenty-five. So your grandfather was a year older. He got on the car – which was empty – took a look around, and asked me if the seat next to me was taken.”
“I was bold,” his grandfather said, nodding.
“And you said…?”
“Well obviously I said no. He sat next to me. In hindsight, I should have said yes.”
“Gram!” James laughed. “That’s horrible!”
“She is horrible to me,” Grandpa Luc said, shaking his head. “So we went on dates, got married, et voila. Here we are.”
James sighed. Sometimes getting what he wanted was so difficult. He could always ask them more at a later time, so he changed the subject. “Mom said you told her you met a different way.”
His grandfather’s eyes lit up mischievously. The wrinkles around his eyes crinkled in delight, oddly making him look younger rather than older. “Yes. We told your mother and your aunt and uncle that we met when I went to Jell-O wrestling match. And your grandmother was one of the wrestlers.”
“Did Mom and them believe you?”
“Not at first, no,” Grandma Julia admitted. “Your uncle said, ‘oh yeah? What flavor?’ and I told him my favorite was lemon.”
“She said it without missing a beat! No smile, nothing,” his grandfather howled, slapping his knee. “Just went right back to cooking dinner. The kids believed it for years after that! Should have seen the looks on their faces.”
James laughed with his grandparents over the memory. I hope one day I have some fun story to tell my family.
“Are you going to post that on the Internet thing you’re doing?” his grandfather asked, leaning forward to look at the computer again.
“I’m going to edit the interview a bit first, then yes. I’ll put it on the website. Did you know I discovered a distant relative because of it? They’re using the site and looking for family, too.”
“Really? Who?” his grandmother asked.
“A great-grandchild of great-grandma’s older brother. I sent them an email, but I haven’t heard back from them yet. I hope they respond; I want to meet them. They live in New York it looks like.”
“You know, James. It’s a good thing what you’re doing. I wish I had asked my mother more. All I know is that her parents emigrated from Germany. She didn’t talk much about it. I don’t even know what village they were from.”
“I can try to find that out, Gram.”
“How would you do that?”
James shrugged. “I can try to see if I can find their immigration papers. It might list it there. I haven’t done that much detailed work yet, but I’m sure with a little searching I’ll be able to find it.”
His grandmother was silent for a few moments before she smiled. “That would be wonderful, James. You’re such a good boy.”
“Boy! He’s twenty-seven. Hardly a boy.”
“Thanks, Pop.” James smiled at the two of them then leaned forward and turned the recording off, making sure the file had saved to an easy to access location. Wouldn’t do to lose it and then have to re-record the entire conversation. It was difficult enough the first time.
“I think I’m going to head for the pool and swim for a bit before I head home,” James announced as he shut down the computer.
“I think I’ll join you. Coming, Julia?”
“Yeah, I’ll be out in a few minutes. Go ahead.”
Gathering up his things, James packed them away and changed into his bathing suit, then met his grandfather outside as he unlocked the gate to their aboveground pool and pushed it open. At six foot even, James towered over his grandfather. He always had, but since his accident two years ago, he seemed to be even taller.
James dropped his towel onto a chair and jumped into the water without even testing it. It was warm – almost too warm – but it relaxed him. After surfacing, he swam a few laps across the short pool then grabbed a tube and floated on his back. His grandfather turned the radio on and turned it to some political station – ultra-conservative of course – and sat on his chair to listen for a few moments.
As much as he loved his grandfather, it was amazing how different they were. James accounted it to being a product of two very different generations. His grandfather, born in 1933, had faced hard times, and yet he emerged successful. His large home was a testament to how hard he had worked. He was a registered Democrat, ironically so, because he considered himself a conservative Republican and always sided with them. He was homophobic and a bit racist at times, yet James felt he was still a good man at heart.
James had come out when he was seventeen years old to his parents, but waited until he was twenty-three to tell his grandparents. He wanted them to know who he was, even if it meant they disowned him. And for nearly two years, they had. His grandmother tried to contact him from time to time, but as patriarch of the family, his grandfather was not happy with it.
It wasn’t until his accident two years ago that changed everything.
His grandfather had been painting the garage, and to reach the upper levels had pulled a ladder from under the deck. It was wooden and old, and one that desperately needed to be replaced. But though his grandfather had money, he was notoriously cheap. He insisted the ladder was fine, and that he was more than capable of painting on his own. Things had been fine for an hour when the rotted wood on the ladder suddenly gave way. His grandfather had been nearly six feet off the ground when it collapsed. He landed on his right arm and smashed his face against the ground, breaking his arm, nose, and cheekbone in the process.
When his grandmother heard the shout she came running and called for the ambulance. He had been rushed to the hospital where it took extensive surgery to repair the broken bones. Family visited often but did not stay long because the pain made him angry, and his inability to move exacerbated it.
Soon only James and his grandmother visited. Though his grandfather ignored him at first, he slowly started to talk to him. Sometimes it was to call him names that hurt, but James stayed with him. One night he was supposed to get his pain medication at eight o’clock. By ten after, the nurses had not shown up yet, and so James went to find them and demand his grandfather be helped; he was moaning in pain at that point, the morphine wearing off. Twenty minutes later, they still had not arrived and told him that visiting hours were over.
“I am not leaving until my grandfather has been given his medication and is comfortable,” James told them.
“You’ll have to be patient. The staff is switching shifts now. Someone will be in soon.”
“That’s what you told me half an hour ago! How long does it take to switch shifts? My grandfather was scheduled to get his medication at eight. It is eight thirty, and he’s in his bed moaning in pain. Can’t you just give me his dose and I’ll give it to him?”
“I’m sorry, but we can’t do that. Please calm down. I assure you, someone will be in soon.”
“Why can’t you do it? You’re sitting here doing nothing.”
“He’s not my patient.”
James threw his hands up in defeat and stalked back to the room where his grandfather gritted his teeth.
“James, just go home. It’s late.”
“No, I’m not leaving until you get your medication and you’re comfortable. I’ll stay here all night if I have to.”
His grandfather grew quiet and watched him curiously, and for the next half hour they waited together in silence.
At nine, James got up and went back to the nurse’s station. Six nurses stood their laughing, drinking from cups of coffee.
“Excuse me, but my grandfather’s medication is an hour late and no one has been in to see him.” James could barely keep his anger in check. One of the nurses looked upset and followed him back to the room where she grabbed the chart and looked at it.
“Lucien? You haven’t been given your medication yet?”
“No,” he said through gritted teeth. “My grandson has been asking for the last hour.”
“I’m so sorry, sir. I’ll get that for you right away,” she said.
James sighed with relief and followed her into the hall. She stopped at a cart and opened it, pulling his grandfather’s cup from it.
“I really do apologize,” she said. “His regular nurse didn’t show up tonight. I don’t understand why someone didn’t take care of this before. I’ll keep an eye on him.”
“Thank you,” James said, relaxing. “I’m going to stay until he falls asleep.”
“That’s fine, dear. You’re a good boy for staying with him. He’s lucky to have someone like you looking out for him.”
James smiled and shrugged.
Half an hour later his grandfather was sleeping peacefully and James was able to leave. Since then, his grandfather’s attitude had changed, and their once easy relationship was back as it had been before James had come out.
Even though their relationship regained that easy comfort again, things were different. Mainly his grandfather’s health. The once vivacious man who ice-skated on his lawn when it froze over stood with a hunch, his back leaned over. He looked as if he needed a cane, but refused the aid of one. No longer could he go hunting alone. His body ached in places it never had, and it frustrated him.
James glanced at his grandfather as he sat in his chair, face up to the sun and eyes closed as if dozing. He used to sit so straight and tall. So proud. Now he just seemed so tired all the time, and it pained James to see it.
“You coming in, Pop?”
“In a moment. The sun feels good,” he said, clearly not asleep at all.
“The water feels good, too. It’s warm.”
“Yes, it’s been so hot lately the pool has warmed up. It feels like a bath. I think it’s still refreshing though. The lake up in Maine should be colder.”
“Are you going up soon?”
“We might,” he said, then rolled his head forward to look at James. “You know, we still have a week left unrented….”
“Your grandmother and I were thinking maybe you should take it. You deserve a nice vacation. You work so hard, and you’ve done so much for us.”
Time alone at the camp in Maine? James had wanted it for so long, but his grandparents had always insisted he just come and stay with them. They said he didn’t really need the whole cabin to himself, and what was a vacation if no one else was there?
“Are you serious? I don’t know…. I don’t know if I can get the time off from work.”
“Sure you can. Put in for a week. You’ll get it. Or I’ll call and give them a piece of my mind. That bookstore has run you all over the place. They’ve taken advantage of your good work ethics you know,” his grandfather said, getting worked up. He sounded as if he was about to preach so James cut in, splashing water at the old man.
“Okay, okay! I’ll ask for a week off. What can it hurt?”
“Good! That’s more like it. We’d hate to see the place empty for even a week. You’ll enjoy it, too. Maybe you can even get together with your uncles up there and ask them more about the family history. You can add their words to that tree you’re growing on your computer.”
“That’s a good idea,” James said with a laugh. “Maybe I can visit Waterville and try to dig up some old records, too.” I hope my truck will be able to make it all the way up there, he thought, thinking of the old 4Runner. He’d need an oil change and tune-up before he made the three hundred mile journey, or he’d find himself stranded on the side of the highway.