Fiction 440: Empty

Words: Grandaddy, Rose, California

The only thing my Grandaddy left behind when he disappeared was a rose.

No one saw him leave. No one heard the creak of his fake leg slowly descending the old wooden stairs, a noise everyone living in the house had used as an alarm clock for years, waking them up at 6:15 on the dot, every day, like an army bugle.

The day he went missing everyone slept in. It was 7:00 before my mother was roused by my great aunt. The 95-year-old woman was in a state of panic. Her brother was gone. As soon as my mother saw the clock, she understood. She shoved my dad’s shoulder as she swung her feet over the edge of the bed, and he grunted as he too saw the clock, he was late for work. She pulled her robe around her shoulders and stepped into her slippers, leading her aunt into the hallway where they found me. She looked at me quizzically and I just shrugged and pointed to his bedroom.

In that moment, she must have thought he was dead. She went to the door and pulled it open revealing, certainly not what she must have been expecting, a completely empty room. In fact, the room was emptier than it had been in years. The shelves were bare, every knick knack, every photo, every book, gone. Every drawer, upon further inspection, was found to be empty. The closet, which had once held boxes and trunks filled with his most prized and personal possessions, brought with him from California when my grandmother had died in a car accident, held nothing but dust.

That was the strangest thing, the dust. Not the fact that somehow my 98 year old grandfather had moved all of his possessions from the house in the middle of the night, not the fact that no one had heard a thing as he had done it. It was the dust. There was a thick layer of dust over every surface. Even the bed, which was impeccably made, when poked, released its own cloud. How many years of disuse would it take for dust to accumulate like that?

We stood, frozen in the eerie emptiness of the room, and then we saw the rose. The only item in the room, it rested on the dresser, on top of a square of paper. I picked up the paper and handed it to my mother.  It was a newspaper clipping. It was dated exactly ten years previous, the day my Grandfather had moved in. The headline read,

Man killed in a car accident taking roses to wife’s grave.

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