There is a lesson in everything, my grandpa taught me, but as I teetered on the skinny ridge of that steep roof, wind blowing, and lightning flashing that Saturday night I saw no lesson. I only saw a trip to the hospital or worse in my near future. Finally, after a few thunder booms and me twisting on the rusty antennae my uncle Frank hollered out the door. The picture on their television was perfect. Now I could come on down and make him and my Aunt Fannie some popcorn while they watched “Raslin” as they called their favorite Saturday night show.
Glad to be off the roof and out of the rain, I was happy to make the popcorn I told myself still shivering and not from the cold. Three stories is a long way up. Too far for Uncle Frank. Since his back went out during the war he hasn’t been much on climbing.
“Lucky you were here Tadpole,” he told me when I passed through on my way to the Corner Store. Him and Aunt Fannie were out of popcorn and the store wasn’t that far away, and I didn’t mind walking. So with the television screaming in the background and them arguing I headed out, aimed for the corner store keeping an eye on their mean looking bull dog. His name was Frank too, and he didn’t like me. Not after my Uncle Frank asked me to give him a bath assuring me the old dog had his rabies shot, before and after he bit me.
Aunt Fannie used to be a nurse patched me up as and told me Frank was always biting Uncle Frank too. That was why he didn’t like washing him.
Frank woke from his nap and growled but by then I was across the yard. So he slipped back under the porch, it was raining too hard and he didn’t like water which made me wonder if Uncle Frank was being straight up about the rabies shot.
I should have left before the rain really got to pouring. I had lingered too long hoping Uncle Frank would give me money for the popcorn especially after he asked me to pick him up a six pack of cool ones. He said Floyd the old man who ran the store would know what he was talking about. I sure didn’t and hoped the seven dollars and twenty-seven cents I had in my pocket would be enough to cover the cost and leave me something for the church offering the next morning.
It was after I stepped in my third mud puddle baptizing my soaked sneakers nearly up to my knee that I understood the look my grandpa had when I waved goodbye that morning. He knew Uncle Frank and Aunt Fannie better than me. That was why he just shook his head when he told me he would see me the next morning at preaching.
All that, “We’ll treat you like a king,” talk that Aunt Fannie laid on me when she and Uncle Frank convinced me to come for a visit, just wasn’t true.
“Mi casa es su casa,” my uncle said trying to sound like someone he had seen on television, when we pull up in the drive way and parked in the shade.
“That way it won’t get too hot on you when you are rotating the tires on the old chariot he said with a snuff stained smile while I gulped and listened from the back seat, clutching the plastic shopping bag containing my church clothes. I really gulped, big time, when I mentioned I had forgotten my toothbrush and Uncle Frank said I could use his with another toothy grin.
“Hurry with that popcorn,” they both hollered as they fought over the remote; Aunt Fannie on her AB-Buster and Uncle Frank trimming his ear hairs with something he ordered off TV.
I hurried, but not really. I knew what was waiting when I got back. Since it rained, all the clothes I had hung on the line would have to be brought in and machine dried. Since she got her condition, Aunt Fannie said she didn’t like hanging out clothes, and asked me if I would while she whipped me up some of her famous homemade pudding. First I had to wash them she told me, all of them, even the soggy ones from the bathroom floors where they had piled up, even Uncle Frank’s underwear.
Aunt Fannie’s world famous homemade pudding, turned out to be not so home made. I saw the cans when I took out the trash.
I was never so happy to see my grandpa’s truck the next morning as I crossed the church yard. Eyes bloodshot from watching the wallpaper on the walls of the bedroom I slept him move all night. My Uncle said the room was haunted. Aunt Fannie said it wasn’t. Frank sleeping under the bed hadn’t helped.
The choir was already singing by the time I made it in the church door. I was late. I had to walk. Like so many other promises they didn’t keep, Uncle Frank and Aunt Fannie, hadn’t brought me to church. They stayed home. Aunt Fannie having over did it on the AB-Buster claimed it hurt to breathe and Uncle Frank’s ingrown toe nails were giving him a fit even though I had been careful when I tried to trim them up for him the night before.
Beside me, Frank was the only one happy that morning and that was only after he caught me not watching and chomped down on my leg as I hurried down the porch. I didn’t mind. I was leaving.
When my grandpa with knowing eyes asked in a whisper if I had fun I answered with a look he understood. He knew Uncle Frank and Aunt Fannie.
Then he said it probably taught me a lesson which made my look change to puzzled.
“Now you might have an idea how Jesus feels,” he said with a soft smile like only grandpas have and handed me the Bible which he had opened to John 3:16. I followed along with the preacher thinking about what he said and what my grandpa said and now all these years later I am still thinking about it.
This is a work of fiction dedicated to those who teach us the hard lessons. Edward Reed 2020