That’ll Do the Trick

David’s hand shook as he put the razor against Grandpa’s throat. “Hold still now,” he muttered, embarrassed that his words smelled like morning breath — again — and reminding himself — again — that he should always brush his teeth before shaving Grandpa in the morning.

With his head tilted back, Grandpa sat rock-still in the chair backed up to the kitchen sink. The morning sun streamed into the room through the cracked window, and David squinted as he stood bent over his grandfather, shaving all the least-vulnerable parts of the neck first. He started just below the jaw line, making sure to get all the bristles; otherwise, Grandpa would pick and scrape at them for the rest of the day, sometimes until he made himself bleed. “Almost done,” David said, and then, as carefully as he could, feeling gangly and uncoordinated just the same, he began to shave the bristles on the skin over Grandpa’s jugular.

“Just a little deeper, Davey!” Grandpa said, and winked.

The loudness of his voice startled David; he pulled his hand back and fought an urge to curse. This is no time for jokes! he wanted to yell, but didn’t. He didn’t want to wake his mom, for one thing, and raising his voice with Grandpa would only agitate the old man, and he couldn’t risk that.

Today was a big day. An important day. Today David would deliver 10 dozen of his mom’s peanut butter cookies to Big Buns Bakery — the biggest bakery in Long Beach. If they could get Big Buns as a client, that would change everything; they’d even be able to buy Grandpa an electric razor. David had a lot to do before he made his morning deliveries, and everything had to go smoothly. Today was not a good day for Grandpa to become agitated.

“That’s it for today.” He wiped off Grandpa’s face and neck with a damp towel, stifling a yawn in the process.

Grandpa sat upright in his chair and felt the smoothness of his skin. “That’s it for today,” he said, as if he liked the sound of the words. “What’s that thing you used to say, Davey? When you was little? That’s it for now … No.” He shook his head. “No. Remember?”

David took the comb from his pocket and pulled it gently through Grandpa’s coarse brown-gray hair. “I don’t remember. We need to get you dressed.”

Grandpa surveyed his shabby gray trousers and blue button-down shirt. “But I am dressed.” He frowned at David for just an instant but then smiled, his dark brown eyes twinkling, as if David was trying to pull one over on him, and David half-expected him to ask, “Are you trying to pull one over on me?” like he used to, way back when. Back in the good old days. But instead he asked, “What was that thing you used to say …”

“I don’t remember, Grandpa,” David said, wondering how many more times he’d have to tell him that today. “I know you’re dressed, but you wore those clothes yesterday.” He had been too tired last night to help Grandpa into his pajamas. This had been happening more and more, but Mom had stopped yelling at David about it. David didn’t like when his mom yelled at him, but he also didn’t like her becoming less and less concerned about the things she used to care about.

“But I am dressed,” Grandpa repeated, and David sighed and decided not to fight him about it and to let him stay in these clothes. One less thing he had to do this morning, and at least the clothes were clean.

Bobby shuffled into the kitchen, already dressed for school, but sloppily.

“Tuck in your shirt,” David said, and Bobby tried to do it as he got his cereal bowl and spoon from the dish rack. “If you’re gonna do something, do it right,” David said, which is something their dad used to say, and David wished he hadn’t, but lately he couldn’t seem to stop what came out of his mouth. Especially around Bobby. Something about his little brother made David feel old and cranky, even though, at 16 and 10, there were only six years between them. 

Bobby set down his bowl and spoon to tuck in his shirt. Grandpa watched him from his seat at the sink, still massaging his chin (trying to find something to scratch at, David supposed), and said, “Do it right, like your brother says,” but he said it in a cheerful voice and Bobby smiled and kissed his cheek good morning.

The scene made David feel even more separate from the two of them, like he was the mean old jerk in charge and they had made a pact to tolerate him; like David was a sharp piece of glass, sharp like Grandpa’s razor, able to cut through them like dough, and whenever he did, they just smiled and helped each other mend the cuts.

Bobby took his bowl and spoon and the box of Cheerios from the counter and sat down at the table, his eyes just barely open. He opened his mouth to take in a spoonful of cereal but yawned instead.

“Did you stay up late reading again?” David asked. He had seen the flashlight glowing beneath Bobby’s sheets last night, the bedspread raked with shadows from the bars at the window.

Bobby shook his head. “Grandpa got up and woke me up.”

Grandpa sat quietly in his chair at the sink, listening in an interested way as if Bobby were discussing a neighbor or someone on TV, and not him. When David frowned and shook his head at him, Grandpa mimicked his expression and shook his head, too.

“What time did he get up?” David asked. He and Bobby both shared a room with Grandpa, and David was the one who usually woke when Grandpa got up to wander.

“Two o’clock, I guess. He went into the kitchen when Mom was making her cookies. He tried to get one.”

David imagined how that must have been, Mom in her waitressing uniform, pointing her spatula at Grandpa.

“And Grandpa kept saying, ‘I want a cookie,'” Bobby said, in between bites, “and Mom made her possum face.”

David knew that look, her lips bared over her teeth, her eyes wild and angry. Desperate. Beyond exhaustion. “Why do you bother Mom like that?” he asked Grandpa. “You know you can’t eat peanuts.”

“I just wanted a cookie,” Grandpa said. He hunkered forward in his chair, head down, hands on his knees.

“They are peanut butter cookies.” David enunciated each word to get his point across. “You cannot eat peanuts. You are allergic to them. Do you understand? They will kill you. Do you want to kill yourself?”

Grandpa’s head fell even lower until David could not see his face. His sitting like that reminded David of the dog they used to have. A small black mutt. Mitzi. A good dog, except for the peeing on Dad’s recliner. Whenever she peed on it, she’d run behind the couch and put her head down like Grandpa did now. One pee too many and Dad had taken her to a field in Wilmington and left her there.

“I took Grandpa back to bed,” Bobby said, his mouth full of cereal. “You were still asleep.”

It wasn’t an accusation, but David took it that way. “Yeah, well I need to sleep sometimes, too.” He said it too sharply and Bobby cowered, the way he used to when Dad got drunk and looked for someone to blame about something. 

David felt bad for his tone but didn’t apologize. He hadn’t slept through the night since he was 15, or maybe 14 — he couldn’t remember exactly. But it had been at least a year, ever since Grandpa had started wandering around the house at night; ever since his “forgetfulness,” as Mom called it, had worsened.

David splashed his face with cold water from the kitchen tap to wake himself up while Grandpa got up and moved slowly to the kitchen table — very, very slowly, as if he wanted to do it right. Weird, David thought, how Grandpa never seemed tired. Even though he woke up the rest of them almost every night, making them walk around all day in a semi-zombie state, Grandpa never seemed sleepy. Confused most of the time, a little nervous and too alert, as if he were trying to figure out what was making him confused and nervous, but not sleepy.

Grandpa sat patiently at the kitchen table while David shuffled around the kitchen, getting his breakfast ready. He took a bowl and spoon from the dish rack, filled the bowl with cereal, topped it off with milk and set it down in front of Grandpa. “Here’s your Spaghettios,” he said, and then corrected himself — “I mean Cheerios.” He’d been doing that a lot lately, mixing up words. Anyone else might be worried that he was he losing his mind, but David wasn’t worried — not about that, anyway. He knew he was just tired. Exhausted. Depleted. They hadn’t come up with a word yet to describe the state he was in. He plunked himself down at the kitchen table.

Grandpa stared at the cereal, frowning, and shook his head. “I want a cookie.” He pushed the bowl away, spilling milk on to the table. “Just one cookie, Davey.”

“Eat your Spaghettios or you’ll be hungry all day,” David said, yawning. Grandpa still wouldn’t eat. “Eat up, or you’re hair won’t curl,” David said, the same thing Grandpa used to say to him when he was little and wouldn’t eat his vegetables. “Don’t you want curly hair?”

“No. I want a cookie. Just one.” Grandpa frowned and folded his arms. “What was that thing you used to say, Davey? When you was a little guy. Thinking you was a big guy, all tough all the time. You had that one phrase, whenever you tried to get your way …”

“I don’t know. But no cookies.” David put his head on his arms. “Eat your cereal, Grandpa, or Mom will yell at me.”

David closed his eyes and heard Grandpa sigh and then, a moment later, move the cereal bowl closer to him and finally start to eat. David listened to him chomping and — although he didn’t mean to — fell asleep almost instantly.

“Eat up, or your hair won’t curl!” Grandpa said, laughing in the way he used to laugh. Hearty and happy, a real fisherman. On his fishing boat off the shore of Catalina, in the bay Grandpa took him to when they went fishing. Mom there, too; happy again. Smiling. Like she used to. Laughing. Grandpa dived into the water — strong, fit, bronze as a penny — swimming with strong strokes in the open water. “Jump in, Davey, jump in!” David clambered up onto the side of the boat, ready to dive, but Mom stopped him. “Help me, David; get this off me” — a rope around her neck. Grandpa held the other end of it; he swam and the rope began to choke her. “Stop, Grandpa, stop!” but Grandpa swam even further, grinning, as if it were all a big joke, and Mom’s face began to turn blue …

“Stop, Grandpa! Stop!”

David woke with a start and sprang up from the kitchen table so quickly that he felt faint. The room was empty. 

“Bobby?”

The front door was wide open — barely awake, David ran outside and saw Grandpa jogging down the middle of the street, Bobby in hot pursuit, both heading toward the intersection with the boulevard, busy with a steady stream of big rigs coming to and from the port.

David tore off after them; he knew that Grandpa would head toward the ocean, right into the traffic barreling down the boulevard — toward the slice of water just visible between the warehouses across the road — and that Bobby would follow right behind him. “Bobby!” he yelled, but the boy didn’t slow down. “Bobby! Get out of the street!”

A big white sedan turned from the boulevard onto their street and slammed to a stop just a few feet from Grandpa, who tried to go around the car, but by then David had got there, and Bobby was tugging at Grandpa’s arm, trying to pull him toward the sidewalk. The driver — their neighbor, cranky old Mrs. Bittel — unrolled her automatic window an inch so she could yell “It’s about time you put him in a home!” before she sped on.

Bobby’s face flushed hot red and his eyes shone fierce and dark. “Mind your own busy, lady!” he yelled, with that innocence and outrage and pure courageousness that always made Bobby seem bigger than all the rest of them put together. 

David let Mrs. Bittel sail on without a word; he didn’t stand up for himself or anyone else like Bobby did. And anyway, he knew Mrs. Bittel was right. Grandpa should be in a home, but the only one they could almost afford was dark and noisy and smelled like urine mixed with Lysol. Grandpa had started to cry when they’d gone to visit it, and then Mom had cried, too, and that was the end of that. Ever since then, they didn’t talk about nursing homes.

David and Bobby led Grandpa back home, one on each side of him. “That wasn’t good, Grandpa. That wasn’t good,” Bobby said, over and over. 

Grandpa seemed unconcerned by the whole episode and tried to turn around to look at the ocean. “Look at the water, boys. Look at it! Let me go on down there, boys. Just let me go and then — what was that you used to say, Davey? Way back when. You know what I mean. When you wanted to get your way.”

David, still catching his breath, his heart still beating wildly, didn’t say a thing.

Back at the house, David turned the TV on — the Today Show, with the volume turned down low — and told Bobby to sit with Grandpa on the couch until it was time to leave for school. He kept on eye on them from the kitchen while he unlocked the kitchen cabinets that stored the 20 shoebox-size boxes of peanut butter cookies.

Grandpa turned stiffly from his seat on the couch to watch him. “I’ll take me one of those, Davey. Know what I mean?”

“No, Grandpa. No cookie.”

“Just one. Gosh darn. I can’t think of it. That one phrase you had. C’mon boy. Help me out.”

“Don’t know what you mean, Grandpa,” David said. He took out five boxes, relocked the cabinets, and then loaded them into the trunk of the old black Galaxy. He repeated this until all 20 boxes were stored safely in the trunk. 

It was a little before 8; he still had time to drop Bobby off at school before making his deliveries. Despite all the hubbub this morning, what with Grandpa racing down the street toward the ocean and nearly getting himself killed (and Bobby, too, for that matter), David had continued with his morning routine briskly and efficiently. He had to. His mom was depending on him.

Before leaving the house, he checked in on her, just like he did every morning. He opened her bedroom door as quietly as he could and saw her sleeping. Even asleep, she looked worried, with two deep creases in her brow, like two lowercase l’s. He looked for any sign that she was slipping toward another breakdown like the one she’d had before, the week after Christmas, when she barely left her bedroom and stayed in her pajamas all day. He heaved a big sigh as he quietly closed her door. What if Bobby had been hit by a car today? His mom would never recover. He told himself he could never fall asleep at the kitchen table again. Never.

New self-imposed rules usually gave David a spurt of energy, and this one was no different. He ushered Grandpa and Bobby into the Galaxy, determined that the day would go better than it had started out. Today had to go right! If they could get Big Buns Bakery as a regular client, they could get Grandpa some help. And Mom wouldn’t have to waitress anymore. And maybe David could go back to school in time to graduate with his friends. With everyone strapped in, he pulled the car out of the driveway and headed down the street.

Just before they reached the boulevard, Elaina Carrera sashayed down her front steps to the dark brown El Camino waiting for her at the curb. “What a pretty girl!” Grandpa said, like he did every morning. “Who is she?”

“Elaina Carrera.” Bobby said. He whistled like a sailor; something Grandpa had taught him to do.

“Pretty name for a pretty girl,” Grandpa said, but he didn’t have to tell David that. Elaina Carrera — David had been singing her name in his head ever since the 9th grade, when she moved in. He’d even thought, for a while — with the way she smiled at him in the hallways and caught his eye in the cafeteria — that he might have a chance with her. But now she had a boyfriend who drove her to school every morning. David watched in the rear-view mirror as she got into his car.

“Make her your sweetie, Davey, that’s my advice to you,” Grandpa said, and David almost laughed. Even if Elaina didn’t have a boyfriend, how could David ask her out? What would he say? “Want to come over and help me with laundry? Or hey, I’m going grocery shopping later, maybe you can come along me. If not that, the drain in the bathroom’s plugged; how about you come over and watch me clean it out?”

The morning traffic was bad, as usual, and the traffic lights were working against him. The spurt of energy David had felt earlier had already dissipated. He met a red light at every intersection he came to, and it made him want to cry. Seemed like everything these days made him want to cry. Everything — the toaster that burned his bread, the lights that wouldn’t change from red to green fast enough, or that changed too fast from green to red. His father used to slap him every time he cried. “Whiney little sissy boy,” he’d snarl, then whack! But then Grandpa had come to live with them, and the first time he saw Dad do that, he’d socked him a good one right in the nose, and then Dad had left for good.

They passed the big electronic clock on the Wells Fargo bank sign. 8:10. He had five minutes to get Bobby to school.

“David?” Bobby said quietly, hunkered down in the vastness of the Galaxy’s back seat. “We got to hurry. I don’t want to be late for school.”

“I know that, Bobby. Don’t you know I know that?” David’s voice was clipped and taut and he hated himself for it, especially when, in the rearview mirror, he saw the look on Bobby’s face, like he was scared David might turn around and slap him.

“Don’t you worry, boy,” Grandpa said. “We’ll get you there. They can’t start school without you, anyway. Right, Davey? The smartest boy in the whole school. Right, Davey?”

“That’s right.” David tried to sound conciliatory, but he sounded phony even to himself. In the mirror he saw that, although Grandpa’s words had made Bobby smile, his eyes still looked worried.

They pulled up to the school with two minutes to spare. Bobby unstrapped and kissed Grandpa on the cheek before he got out of the car, but he didn’t look at David. He slammed the door shut, and they watched him go through the schoolyard gate, loaded down by his backpack full of books, maneuvering through the crowd of boisterous kids loitering on the sidewalk.

“He’s still so little,” Grandpa said in a sad way, and David bristled, assuming he was being blamed for it. He almost started to argue, “Well, it’s not my fault if Bobby doesn’t eat like I tell him to,” when Grandpa said, “He’ll always be the little one. Not like you. You were always old. Even when you was little.”

David knew Grandpa was right about that. He had always felt like an old man.

“You’re the man of the house now,” Grandpa said, using a tone David hadn’t heard in a long time — the same tone he used to use when telling David how important it was to do well in school. “The man of the house is the one who protects. Protects, Davey. Even from himself.”

David nodded, not that surprised by Grandpa’s lapsing into coherence. It happened sometimes — although not often, and never for long. 

He pulled away from the curb and a few blocks down he turned onto Cherry Avenue. They were in the ugliest part of town, full of machine shops and strip clubs and liquor stores. The bright morning sun made it all seem sad and tired, like a made-up hooker in the daylight.

“Probably my fault anyway, you being mean to your brother,” Grandpa said, and David was surprised that his mind had managed to stay on the same track, remaining coherent, for so long. “The mess we’re in, Davey. It’s all my fault. I’m a mess, Davey, and I don’t like being a mess.”

“We’re all a mess,” David sighed. “We’re all a mess together.”

“I just want a cookie. You know Davey? Just one.”

David turned to look at Grandpa and for a moment saw the real Grandpa again, not the man he was now, but the one he used to be; the grandpa who was strong, swimming in the open ocean, socking the noses of much meaner men. The grandfather who David used to know, and he was beseeching him.

“Just one cookie,” Grandpa said, but the look in his eyes became less focused, and he reverted back to the old man he had become. “What’s that thing you used to say? You know what I mean. Back when you wanted your way.”

“I don’t know,” David said, and then added, before he could stop himself, “I don’t like remembering back then.” He hated to admit how he missed the old days, when Grandpa had his mind intact; all those good times that were gone forever. Not that they ever did anything fancy back then — just playing cards, and going fishing, and staying up late to watch the monster movies when Mom was at work. Thinking back, David let himself remember how mean his dad was, because it didn’t hurt thinking about those times and knowing they were gone. But the happy times with Grandpa, he tried to forget those.

The light at Broadway turned red, but he gunned through it anyway and then immediately slowed to a crawl. “There it is,” he said, softly, like a prayer, as they approached the squat white stucco building with Big Buns Bakery painted in bright red letters over the doorway. He drove slowly by the store and saw three small Asian women behind the counter waiting on a steady stream of customers. 

“Woo-ee, Davey. Look at all them ladies.  What they selling, you think?” 

“It’s a bakery Grandpa. They sell bakery things. Muffins. Croissants. Cakes and …” David nearly said “cookies” but stopped himself.

“And cookies,” Grandpa said.

“You forget about those cookies,” David said, and he pulled around to the alley and parked the Galaxy at the bakery’s back door. 

Mrs. Nguyen, the owner, opened the door right away when David knocked. She ordered him to move his car before he could even say hello. “Big truck on its way. You don’t park here.”

Mrs. Nguyen kept the door ajar with a brick and went back inside while David parked the car further up the alley. “Stay here,” David told Grandpa after he’d parked. “I mean it, Grandpa. You need to stay here.” Grandpa nodded and folded his hands on his lap, trying to look obedient, David supposed, but he kept an eye on the old man anyway as he walked around to the back of the car.

He opened the trunk and saw that the boxes of cookies weren’t as nicely stacked as before; all the stopping and starting up again at the traffic lights had caused them to shift. He made a mental note to rearrange the boxes before going on to the next client, and then took out the box of five boxes of cookies Mrs. Nguyen had ordered — 10 dozen cookies in total — and closed the trunk with a soft thunk.

He entered the bakery and deposited the boxes of cookies on a big steel table in the back room just as Mrs. Nguyen ordered him to. While she inspected the contents, he began his usual sales pitch, even though Mom had told him not to (“None of your sweet-talking baloney with Mrs. Nguyen, at least not on the first delivery,” she’d said, trying to be stern, but he could still see a hint of a smile). But he had to make his pitch. Maybe today someone would order something besides peanut butter cookies. “Don’t you want to order a different kind of cookie? Chocolate chip maybe? Sugar cookies with pecans?”

“No. Just peanabudda. That’s the best. You mom make best peanabudda. Everybody say so.”

“Okay, but if you ever change your mind …”

“Ya, ya, sure. I change my mind, I call you. But now just peanabudda.”

David smiled at her, but inside he felt like two more bricks had been added to the load already on his shoulders. Couldn’t anyone see how dangerous it was to have peanut butter in his house? Just one more thing for him to keep track of, worry about …

“Davey, tell me again. What you said before …” Grandpa stood at the open back door, stinking like an outhouse, his shabby gray pants wet and soiled.

Mrs. Nguyen — all five feet of her — charged at Grandpa and shooed him back into the alley. “You get out! You get out!” When Grandpa had retreated back outside and she’d slammed the door shut, she turned on David. “You — what you do to me? You stink up my place!”

David tried to calm her down, but she began to get more hysterical. “This no good! No good! You take your cookies, you go!”

“No, no, please, Mrs. Nguyen.” David knew he shouldn’t leave Grandpa alone in the alley, but he had to calm her down, and quickly. “Please, Mrs. Nguyen …”

But Mrs. Nguyen would not calm down. “This how you treat new customer?”

David had never played on people’s sympathy before, but if ever there was a time to start, it was now. “Please, Mrs. Nguyen, he’s my grandfather, and he’s very sick. I promise this won’t happen again.”

“I don’t care who he is. You take him, you take your cookies, you go.”

“Please forgive me, Mrs. Nguyen, please forgive me. I promise you’ll never see him again.” He saw her soften a bit even as he wondered how in the world he could ever keep such a promise. “Look,” he said. “Tell you what. This shipment is free. Okay?

The effect was instantaneous. “This shipment free?”

David nodded.

“Whole week free,” she countered.

David pretended to consider this and then offered four days of shipments free. She agreed to it and was reasonably placated when he left but yelled “You don’t bring him back” as he left.

He sighed with relief once he got outside. “I saved the sale,” he said aloud, only half believing it. “I saved the sale,” and the constant hunch in his shoulders seemed to straighten a bit and he even felt taller. “I saved the sale!” A startled black cat sprang from behind a trash can and darted across his path, but David barely noticed. 

But where was Grandpa? Not in the passenger seat; David could see the empty seat through the car’s back window. He approached the car —

The trunk was open. Not all the way, just barely. But still open.

David ran to the car, afraid he’d find his grandfather lying dead next to it. He wasn’t.

How had the trunk opened? He looked inside — a box had shifted during the drive here and had kept the trunk from closing all the way. Soft thunk when he had closed the trunk — it didn’t usually sound like that. Why hadn’t he noticed? The lid on one of the boxes looked tampered with; had David done that, when he thought he was closing the trunk? Or had Grandpa …. 

David’s hand trembled as he lifted the lid. Of the four neat stacks of cookies, one had only five cookies, not six.

David closed the trunk — this time with a loud thunk — and ran. No use trying to drive. The traffic was still bad, and he already knew where Grandpa was headed. The ocean was just two blocks away.

He ran hard, dodging the traffic and the litter and the stray cats like an obstacle course, swerving around a bum who emerged suddenly from an alley and asked “where’s the fire?” as David sprinted past. David ignored all of it, his one goal to find his grandfather, his eyes scanning the streets for an old man in blue and gray — 

Something blue was sprawled on the grass near a cinderblock public restroom and his heart pounded even harder and he didn’t know what he would tell him mom — but the blue was only a homeless woman wrapped in a blanket under a squat palm tree.

It seemed like an omen to David, the blue blanket not being Grandpa, as if God was saying, “See? It was only a blanket. Grandpa is okay,” and as he ran his mind took a turn and he thought maybe Grandpa didn’t see the trunk open — David hadn’t noticed it either, not at first — Grandpa was just walking to the beach; he hadn’t taken a cookie — the box had shifted in the trunk, that was all — maybe Mom had miscounted and had not put in the cookie in the first place — she was always so tired, that’s probably what happened — Grandpa hadn’t taken a cookie — if he had, he would have eaten it right away — 

He spotted another swatch of blue and when he ran across Ocean Boulevard he saw it was his grandfather, sitting on a bench, his back to David as he overlooked the water. A pelican swooped low over the water and Grandpa turned his head to watch it. David slowed to a jog.

He got his life back, seeing Grandpa there. A messy, tired life, but his life, all the same. They were all in it together, him and Grandpa, Mom and Bobby; that was the important thing. Things would start to get better from now on, for all of them. They were on the “up and up,” like Grandpa used to say, back in the day. 

And this was just like back in the day, David thought, seeing Grandpa sitting on the bench, waiting for him, just like he used to when David was little and would meet Grandpa at the beach after school.  Waiting so they could fish a bit before he took David home. 

David called out to him, and Grandpa turned stiffly around to look but only briefly before turning back round again, without even a wave. David shook his head like a parent would, like Grandpa was a naughty boy, but he smiled, too, the way Grandpa used to smile, back when they fished here after school, back when Grandpa would buy him greasy French fries slathered in chili, and but it was never enough, and David would beg for ice dream afterward, still hungry. “That will do the trick,” David would always say, and Grandpa would shake his head but smile just the same as he dug in his pocket for some change to buy the ice cream —

“That’s it!” David cried — that’s what Grandpa was trying to get him to remember. “‘That’ll do the trick!'” He laughed like a boy, remembering it. The first good memory he’d had in a long time, and his heart felt even lighter than before. There was Grandpa, and he was okay, and he had made the deal with Mrs. Nguyen, and it would be okay, Grandpa was okay, it would all be okay, he had saved the sale, they were on their way, soon they’d have a thriving business, maybe they could even hire someone to take care of Grandpa at home, and when he wasn’t so tired anymore, they could play cards again and maybe even go fishing sometimes. “Grandpa! I remember! I remember! ‘That’ll do the trick!'”

And with the words Grandpa’s hand fell loose and dangled at his side beside him and his head fell back and for the briefest of moments David thought Grandpa wanted another shave. But that wasn’t it at all.

###

Published in Marathon Review, 2015

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