Grady stashed his pain meds in his sock drawer. They made his thinking sluggish and he had no intention of using them or anything else unless absolutely necessary. He needed to be sharp and motivated.
The doctors couldn’t say exactly how much time he had left. Six months, maybe. Six days. They couldn’t be sure since he’d refused treatment, and the only safe play he could think of was to keep focused during every minute.
He was on his way outside when he saw his mother standing at the stove in the kitchen struggling to open a can of corn with a bent opener.
She looked up at him with a flat, sad smile. “Hey, honey. I thought you, me, and Denny could all eat dinner together tonight.”
“I’m going to meet the guys out in the woods for a bit,” Grady said.
His mother’s smile disappeared. She turned back to the can, tried to turn the opener a couple more times, and threw the can down on the stovetop.
She covered her eyes with her hands and began to cry.
Grady rushed towards her but froze at the edge of the yellow linoleum kitchen floor as if a force field repelled him. He didn’t know how to go any further. He’d never initiated a hug in his life.
“I’m not smoking pot or anything like that, Mom. I promise.”
She sniffled and wiped at her eyes. “It’s not that, honey. I wanted to make you a special dinner and have a nice night with you, but all I have is old chicken and generic corn and this goddamn trailer.”
A tear rolled over her cheek and plunked onto the stovetop. Grady had never seen a tear so big. He was pretty sure it was the saddest thing he’d ever seen in his life.
“God, Grady, I wanted to give you a better life. I really did.”
His legs took off without him. He crossed the floor in two long strides and pulled his mother close. “Momma, I love when you make chicken and corn.”
He hadn’t called her “Momma” since he was five years old.
She sank into him. Her tears soaked through his shirt as she trembled in his arms.
“You’re a great mother, Momma. I couldn’t ask for a better one. I’d love to eat dinner together tonight. I just need to talk to the guys for a bit and then I’ll be back. Eight o’clock. I promise.”
She stepped back from him and wiped away her tears. “Hopefully I can get that stupid can of corn open by then.”
Grady picked up the can and the opener. With a couple turns he finished the job and handed them to her. “So, it’s a date?”
“Of course. When did you get so damn grown up?”
He smiled. “When I found out I was going to die.”
She started to smile back, but halfway there her expression fell apart and she began bawling.
He hugged her again. “I’m sorry. That was stupid to say.”
After she’d gathered control of herself, his mother pressed her hand against his cheek and said, “I’m proud of you, Grady.”
“Yeah? Well, just wait, Momma. You haven’t seen anything yet.”
Copyright 2020 Jeff Suwak
Continue to Part 4