Charlie gazed at the pantry shelf. Soft light slanted through the old window at the far end of the cupboard. Once it would open to cool pies, hot jams and chutney; it had been painted shut a long time ago and gathered a layer of grime.
“I like it that way, it keeps the pantry cool,” Gramma said and it did
Charlie loved the pantry, full of bottles, jars, boxes, and smells. Looking back at the shelf he half expected to see something he’d missed but there was nothing for him today, not even a note.
He stuck his hand into the biscuit jar and stirred it feeling for his favourites. They jangled like coins in a cracked glass their sweetness rising to meet him. He munched and walked the two or three paces along the shelves toward the window and back. The neighbour’s dog barked maybe the Grammies were back. Rushing out to greet them he felt a prickle of annoyance to find the driveway empty and no sign of Gramps old car.
They knew he would come; he always did on Wednesday straight from school, the day his mum worked in the church office until 5 o’clock. It was his special time with Gramma and Gramps or Grumps as the boy secretly called him lately. That new name had started about a year ago when Gramps got Grumpy with Charlie for eating the last of his special fruit. Charlie had found the tin with a golden pineapple ring in the pantry and thought he’d found treasure.
He’d seen glace fruits before; every Christmas Gramma used them to stud the top of a rich dark cake. Charlie thought it was like the coloured glass in the church windows and called them Glass fruits. The name had stuck.
“Gramps likes his special glass fruits Charlie,” Gramma had explained, “so we’ll leave that tin alone.” She had placed the special tin on a higher shelf. “You’ll have other treats okay?”
It was the first time Gramps had really shouted at Charlie. The old man grumbled his way to the shed, slammed and locked the door. He wouldn’t answer when Charlie called so the boy said sorry through the paint peeled door.
Now, as Charlie remembered those fruits his mouth watered. He realised he had grown taller since then and if he stretched he could probably reach the higher shelf with no trouble.
When he arrived home his mother was there.
“Charles, quickly put your bag away we have to go out.”
In the car Charlie felt a creepy feeling down his neck, something serious had happened.
At the hospital the creepy feeling stretched all the way to his feet. His father was there; face blotchy and odd looking, like a stranger’s. Charlie followed them into a darkened room it was as if he was invisible. Beside the bed Gramma sat looking small and alone; his folks went over to her and held her as she cried.
Charlie could just see Gramps lying on the bed looking like the rest of the shadows in the room.
“Charlie?” Gamma’s voice was watery and only just reached him.
“Don’t be frightened dear, Gramps has gone to be with Jesus he’s… gone” she struggled to finish.
“It’s all right son” It was his father who steered him to the bedside. Up close Charlie could see Gramps clearly. A gentle nudge of the cold arm failed to awaken the old man.
“He can’t wake up Charlie he’s gone.”
The boy’s eyes widened as he struggled to take it in; he watched the grey face for the slightest movement then he saw a tear caught on the grey bristly cheek.
Instantly Charlie knew it was his fault Gramps had left. He thought about the large green plum from the special tin of glass fruits. Only an hour ago Charlie’s mouth had been filled with sweet splendour, his cheek stretched by the large plum. His teeth had sunk into it, the unusual taste and scent of greengage pleased him. Now he could feel his shamefully sticky fingers, his mouth sickly sweet. Panic welled within him and guilty thoughts buzzed like angry bees.
Somehow Gramps knew and had stormed off again. Not to the shed this time but far, far away so Charlie would never be able to reach him again. Gramps was dead and it was his fault. How could he tell them? If he couldn’t tell he could never put it right.
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