I lived with my grandmother. My grandfather had disappeared over ten years ago. That was the year after my parents were killed in a car crash on Old Highway 63.
My grandmother was not an easy woman to live with. I suspected she was half out of her mind. She was my mother’s mother but she was nothing like the mother I remembered. My mother had always been bright and sunny. She and my father had been high school sweethearts. I was about fifteen when I figured out I had been a big surprise for them. My mother had just turned seventeen when I was born, the age I was now.
Anyway my Granny talked to herself. It was something that had started shortly before Grandpa went off into the sunset without so much as a bye see ya later guys. I woke up one morning and Grandpa was gone. He had been retired from the railroad for over fifteen years since he’d injured his leg on the job. Within the year Granny had sold the house which she suddenly announced she hated like hell and moved us into a little house nearer to town. I asked a couple of times if she was going to ask the police to look for Grandpa. She’d give me what I called her crazy eye look and laugh. Not a big ha ha laugh nor a giggle. Just a sort of harumph ha. Then she would shake her head and go back to whatever she had been doing mumbling to herself the whole time.
Don’t misunderstand; Granny was not mean to me. In fact I’d have to say she loved me more than she’d even loved my mother. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for me, nothing she wouldn’t give me. Maybe she loved me because I didn’t take advantage of that. That wasn’t always because I was a good boy. I figured if she was crazy I sure as hell didn’t want her to go crazy on me.
When the floods had gone and the bodies had washed up I spent long hours glued to the television reports. It was the talk of the town. It may well have been the talk of the county or the state. I didn’t get much past the borders of town. Anyway Granny might be wandering through the living room as I watched on the big television she had bought because I wanted it. She would stop and look at the screen.
“Wow Granny do you think we know any of those dead bodies?”
There was no response and I would look up to see the hem of her dress disappearing into the other room, the mumbling agitated. Granny did not approve of violence. I mean she really hated it. I had to play video games in my room. I had my own DVD player because she did not like fighting in a movie. Her idea of a good movie was a comedy from when movies were in black and white. I sat with her sometimes and watched them. Don’t laugh. It was the least I could do. I didn’t get the jokes. The stories didn’t make any sense either. But she did everything for me so I could spare a few hours now and then to watch some old movie or TV show with her.
Once the bodies from the river were taken to Murrays Mortuary and Flanagan’s Funeral Chapel it seemed like the story might die down. Things didn’t go that way. They called in some kind of investigator’s from the state and big, fancy SUVS were seen on the streets of town while examinations were made behind closed doors with no comments forthcoming.
The best part was the news crews that came to town. We even made the national news. Newscasters speculated that some cemetery or graveyard upriver had been flooded releasing their precious sleeping inhabitants to swim leisurely down river until they made a pit stop in our town.
It was almost a month into what we called The Investigations that two men arriving in one of the aforementioned black SUV’s wearing matching black suits knocked on Granny’s door. I opened the door and stood looking dumbly at the two men. Of course they could tell straight off I was a kid and they asked for my parents. Before I could respond Granny came scuttling up behind me and shoved me unceremoniously out of the way.
The poor guys didn’t know about Granny’s mumbling or sometimes bad temper so they were quite stunned when, upon announcing who they were and where they were from, she slammed the door hard in their faces.
“Granny! You can’t do that!” One of the few times I ever did it was that moment when I reached past her and opened the door. The two men stood in exactly the same positions; the only change the looks of surprise on their faces.
In a few minutes they informed us that Grandpa was no longer lost. He was one of the river dancers who had washed up. Granny stood silently as they offered their condolences and assured her as soon as their investigations were complete they would return Grandpa to us for a proper burial. Granny mumbled before turning and going into the living room. The men apologized for upsetting her. I explained she was likely shocked and horrified to learn her husband had not run off but had in fact died somewhere from some as yet unknown cause.
The men exchanged glances then and one cleared his throat before he informed me in a very confidential tone that it appeared my Grandpa had his head smashed in by some unknown instrument. I imagine I looked like a fish out of water with my mouth hanging open and my eyes bulging at the revelation. A few more moments of chatter I cannot recall and they got back into their big black car and headed back to town.
Going into the living room I saw Granny sitting in front of the TV watching an old episode of “Father Knows Best”. I wondered if she had heard any of the conversation regarding Grandpa’s head. I wondered if I should impart this information to her. Finally I decided not to. If she had not heard she would soon enough because news like that travels fast in a small town.
But there was more news yet to come. And we would all be hearing it soon enough, along with the rest of the state. Heck along with the rest of the country, maybe the world.