William L. Alton, Lies, Fibs, and Fabrications (Fall 2021)

William L. Alton | Poet, Writer

Lies, Fibs, and Fabrications

by William L. Alton

(Fall 2021)

“Old Stories” from Lies, Fibs, and Fabrications

Every morning before the sun rose, Grandma started the coffee and sat at the kitchen table for a moment. Alone. She read from the Bible. Slowly. Tracing the words with her fingertips. Her lips moved with every syllable. Thick glasses that she wore only for reading made her eyes huge. After a verse or chapter, she went to the kitchen and turned on the radio. Old fashioned country music. She put the biscuits in the oven and turned to the gravy.

 

Word had it Grandma wanted to be a missionary. She wanted to go to Africa or South America. Maybe China or India. She’d grown up on stories of souls saved and martyrs welcomed into Heaven. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit moved her. It left her motionless. Her eyes wide and empty. Struck silent.

Somehow, no matter where she was, Grandma never seemed to fit in. But she wanted to be a missionary. Until she met Grandpa. I couldn’t imagine Jesus coming up short to the likes of my grandfather, but the story stood.

 

“He used to dance,” Grandma said once. “He was a wonderful dancer, your grandfather. Not that he dances anymore. Not with that hip of his.” Her voice was so thin it nearly didn’t exist.

Grandpa came back from the war with metal in his back and hip. The doctors took some out. They left some in. Every step seemed to hurt but Grandpa said nothing. In our family, pain was a secret. Not to be spoken of. He dragged his leg around like a column of glass.

They met at a Grange dance. Grandma went with a cousin. Grandpa, fresh from Basic, went with friends. Grandma was shy. She stood in the door, waiting. Impatient and out of place. Grandpa, a little drunk, pulled her to the dance floor. All night, they danced and talked. Nine months later, Mom was born.

After the war, Grandpa gave up on Jesus. “You can’t watch yourself kill a man,” Grandpa said. “You can’t do that and still believe God loves you.” He came back with metal in his hip and a hitch. “I loved dancing with that man,” Grandma said. Her sadness sat thick on her tongue.

“I’ll dance with you,” I said.

Grandma looked at me with blurry blue eyes. “You’re a sweet boy,” she said. She stopped for a moment to look out the window at the mountains rising dark in the distance. Every morning, she stared at the same mountains and made the same breakfast. All my life, the same window, the same sadness in her old face.