Reading the Room - By Brian Law

“Grandpa, you were on Iwo Jima, weren’t you?” his grandson asked, moving closer to his grandparent who was seated in his favorite chair wearing his pajamas and a bathrobe. 

The old man nodded and continued reading his newspaper. He’d said nothing about those experiences for decades and he wasn’t going to start now. The only remnants of his days in the Marine Corps were in the attic, in a locked cedar chest, and in his memory. And that’s where they were going to stay. 

The boy sat at his grandpa’s knee, hummed to himself, and watched the television. The volume was down low which was the way the old man liked it. His eyesight was going, but his hearing was still acute. Just then, the boy spoke up, “There it is again, grandpa. Iwo Jima! See, it’s on television!” 

He lowered his newspaper and watched the screen for the first time in about twenty minutes. The boy was right! The news feed showed a mob surrounding the Iwo Jima Memorial, throwing paint and eggs on the statue, and trying to pull it down with ropes. And there didn’t appear to be anyone attempting to stop them! 

He grabbed the remote, turned-up the volume and leaned forward, his attention focused on the ropes and the apparent madness of the rioters. His grandson watched, too, and said something like, “Oh, wow, grandpa. Did you just see what that guy did?” 

He watched for a few more seconds, then he took the remote and turned off the television. The boy stayed by his knee as the old man sat back with a deep sigh and closed his eyes. Old images flooded his mind again, images he’d repressed, images he never wanted to see or feel ever again. He could feel his heart beating faster and his eyes were tearing-up. And then he started to sob, a little at first, then uncontrollably, his tears falling on the newspaper in his lap and making the newsprint smear. 

The boy looked up and watched as the old man cried, his chest heaving and odd blubbering sounds coming from his mouth. “Can I get you something, grandpa?” he asked, not really understanding what was happening. 

The old man recovered a bit, wiped his nose with his sleeve and dried his eyes with a handkerchief he kept in his pajama pocket. He picked-up the newspaper, found the story he was reading when he was interrupted, and then looking at the boy, replied, “No, I’m okay now. Do you want to watch some more television?” 

“Yeah. Can I watch some cartoons, grandpa?” 

“You bet,” the old man said, grabbing the remote. “What channel are they on?” As he manipulated the remote, he added, "I've something in the attic to show you later. Sound good to you?" 

"Sure, grandpa," the boy said, smiling, happy that his grandpa wasn't sad anymore. 


Leave a comment

Add comment