The faint squeak of an old rocking chair caught our collective attention and only then did we see her. Her wrinkled skin reminded me of ruts in a neglected road, but it was soft and the color of honey and glowed like there was a light underneath that we didn’t see. Her not quite five foot stature was slightly stooped, but her step was sure as she rose and lightly stepped off the porch to greet us.
“Grandma,” said our driver, Sam.
“Sam, you rascal,” she replied, hugging him tightly. “And these are your friends.”
“Nigel, Trent, and T-ball.”
She hugged us each, and when she got to me she said, “I don’t know any woman who likes sports quite that much. What’s your given name?”
“Frederick Kellen the third,” I said quietly, my face growing hot.
The others chuckled as they did every time I answered that question which, fortunately for me, wasn’t often anymore.
“A fine name, Fred. I’ll show you all around, but first let’s get refreshed.”
She seemed happier than any eighty-nine year old I’d ever met, not that I’d met many of them.
Just as we were settling around the sparsely furnished cabin to the digest pork sandwiches, home-made sweet potato chips, and sweet tea she’d fed us, Sam’s grandma untied her apron and clapped her hands. We looked up. In the space of time it had taken for us to wander to our chairs and put our feet up; in the short time that we had taken to crack a few jokes and examine the rudely-made furniture; in the time we’d used to watch her fill the kitchen sink from a pump right next to it, she’d cleared the table, washed the dishes, and put everything else away.
“Lesson one: you’re lazy,” she laughed at the verbal dig.
We didn’t know whether to laugh or leave, but Sam didn’t seem disturbed by it, and he was our driver. We were stuck here whether we liked it or not until he decided to go. The road trip had been a group idea, one we’d dreamed up around the table at the school cafeteria, one that had grown from midnight texts and Facebook messages and senior year convictions about how we would live our lives without the restrictions of fathers’ advice or mothers’ apron strings or any other stupid restraints. Sam had always been the one who took our ideas and made them happen, though, and he had taken the lead in finding a route and planning things boys our age should get a taste of; things we needed to know about the world like strip clubs and beer and who knew what else. We were going to be men’s men. Nobody would mess with us by the time we went off to college or wherever it was we ended up. We were ready for it all. Well, maybe not all. We had no idea what to think of Sam’s grandma.
to be continued . . .