Chapter 3: Grandpa
“I swear your steps get heavier every year. You were born a small boy, but now you’re more elephant than man.” Grandpa’s voice carried through the front door to the stoop of the house where Roan and Flint stood.
Grandpa opened the door. It creaked and cracked with every millimeter of movement revealing much about the age of not only the house, but its caretaker as well.
“You’re both here. At the same time. It’s a regular miracle. What do you want? Come in. I have soda in the fridge. Maybe some cheese. Hell if I know really, your mom and your dad bring me food every day. They think I can’t take care of myself, you know that? Bah”
No one had moved from the stoop.
“Grandpa, if you’d like I can fix the squeak on your door. I’ve got some grease with me for my bike that might to do the trick” Flint said.
“What squeak?” Grandpa had never sounded so offended.
Roan needed to move things along. He had seen how Flint and Grandpa Fletcher both could drone on for hours about anything and nothing. He feared he would not make it off the stoop before lunch at this rate.
“Grandpa, Bernard Eastman broke my nose last night and this morning he’s dead” Roan said.
Grandpa took notice. “I’ll brew some coffee. Get inside.” Roan noticed Grandpa’s eyes panning the area checking
Roan had not been in his grandfather’s house for five or six years, but it looked exactly as he remembered it. Book cases lined every wall, stacked with tomes and ledgers of Fletcher family history and James Patterson novels. An old oak coffee table sat in the center of the front room, coffee rings stained every inch of the surface. Weeks of newspapers were piled up near the kitchen entry.
Flint and Roan took seat in the front room on a couch that was heavily influenced by the style of the Brady Bunch.
A coffee grinder roared in the kitchen as Grandpa returned to the room. “You like a strong brew, I trust. If not, I don’t really care. You kids won’t stay long enough to drink it anyway. Now, about this Eastman kid. Any idea how he died?”
When the subject mattered, Grandpa was not a fan of small talk.
“Sheriff said cougar attack. They found him in a field on the Turner’s land.” Roan said.
“Turner’s homestead?” Grandpa said with a panic in his voice.
Roan and Flint looked at each other, then to Granpa.
“Why does the land matter?” Flint asked.
“Land matters, young one. Land hosts memory, history. The only thing of more consequence than location is a name. Unfortunately for you two your names and your land are soiled.” Grandpa chuckled.
“Solid pun when talking about a dead Eastman. Well done, G-pa,” Roan said with no lack of sarcasm.
“Dead Eastman, Dead Fletcher; it makes no difference. Our families have been dying for a very long time. One of the few things we have in common. Not all of us die by animal attack on Turner’s land though.”
Grandpa paused for a moment, licked his lips and fidgeted his fingers. “What do either of you know of the infamous family curse?”
“Nothing” Roan said, “Mom barred that talk. I got ‘the talk’ twice, but never the curse talk. Therapy should help with all of that right?”
Flint had always found Roan funny and gave an odd snort laugh that slightly embarrassed him. “When the families settled the valley there was a dispute over land and pastures and horse theft or something of the sort. Things escalated and a Fletcher killed an Eastman that was stealing a horse. The families fought for months with words, fists and guns until they were told by the rest of the town to knock it off.” Flint said once he recovered from the snort embarrassment.
“Good, you did pay attention,” Grandpa said.
“If I remember correctly, the elders cursed their own families to safeguard the peace.” Flint continued.
“When the blood of the family is loosed by the enemy, Comesh cometh to subdue” Grandpa uttered.
Flint and Roan exchanged glances.
“What does that mean, Grandpa?” Roan asked.
A knock at the door interrupted the conversation. The knock was little more than a formality as quick footsteps entered the house immediately afterward.
Peering her head around the doorway of the living room was Celia Fletcher, another cousin of the large Fletcher family. She was normally a happy, slow moving girl who just wanted to wear her well earned letter jacket and complain of English homework. When Roan looked upon her, breathless with wide eyes and red cheeks, he barely recognized his cousin.
“Celia, what’s wrong?”
“Grandpa needs to get to the Turner field. An Eastman boy was found dead, the families have gathered at the field. Sheriff can’t hold them much longer,” she said in one unbroken beat.
“And so it begins,” Grandpa muttered.
Grandpa set his coffee cup on the table nearest him and motioned for Flint to grab his coat.
“You three had the good sense to seek me for answers. Watch my actions when we get to the field. If we survive the week, you just may one day have to bring them all together as I will,” Grandpa took his coat from Flint and led them out the door.
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