The Echo of Trees Falling Down
Melissa R. Mendelson
I awoke on Sunday morning at ten a.m. The bed looked like a war zone, and a cold breeze blew through the half open bedroom window. A weight fell upon me, and the sun refused to shine. They were out now, outside, lurking. I could feel them, and I hated that weight. But the weight of her loss was even heavier, almost crushing him, but luckily, he did not follow. I hoped he thought over what my mother had asked him.
“Morning.” I found him standing by the front door. The door was open, but the screen door was closed. “Are they out there?”
“They’re always out there,” my grandfather replied. “They’re either walking by the house or standing right at the edge of the lawn.” He shook his head. “You want breakfast here or the diner?”
“Let’s go,” and we walked outside.
Today was a lot cooler than yesterday, and the sun was hidden behind a large, dark cloud. It smelled like rain, even though the weatherman last night spoke of clear skies. They were always wrong. Maybe, I would become a weatherman, and as the car pulled out of the driveway, one of them stepped into view, casting an ugly shadow over the car. I didn’t think he was going to move, but he finally did. And we were free to go.
The diner was located near the shopping center and town lakes. The parking lot was small but not too crowded. We were seated quickly inside too, in a small booth. My grandfather ordered scrambled eggs with white toast and tea. I didn’t feel like eggs. I got a grilled cheese sandwich instead with a large orange juice. I was tempted to also order fries, but maybe, it was too early for fries.
As we waited for our order, I looked out the window. Cars drove by, and people walked along the sidewalk. You would almost think that it was an ordinary town until I saw them, and they walked in a large group. It was like they had stepped through an alternate reality, or maybe we were the aliens here. But we were here first, and then I heard a crash. One of their vans had ignored the traffic light and plowed into the car that was making a left turn, and it was right near the diner. This diner had seen a lot of accidents especially once that development opened, and my grandfather muttered under his breath.
After breakfast, we stepped outside. The accident was still being handled. The driver making the left turn was taken away in an ambulance. The other driver just stood there, pretending to not understand the police officer. It was a scene that we were used to, and nothing would come of it. Or maybe the other driver would be blamed, even if they had the right of way, and my grandfather shook his head and walked toward his car.
My grandfather drove home slowly. He checked his mirrors and stepped on his brakes even before stopping at the traffic lights or STOP signs. Sometimes, they would just appear out of nowhere and step in front of your car. Then, they would blame you like it was your fault, and so far, my grandfather had been lucky. But now, there were a lot of them, and they were still outside his house, almost blocking the driveway again. It wasn’t right. It just wasn’t right.
We walked inside the house, and the phone was ringing. It didn’t ring yesterday except for maybe an occasional bill collector or charity. Today, the phone would be ringing. It was one of their maneuvers, and if you answered the phone, sometimes they wouldn’t even say anything. Other times, they would speak in their own tongues and not yours, and they would speak loudly, harshly. My grandfather answered the phone and then hung up. He left the phone off the hook. We knew my parents were not calling until five o’clock, so the phone would stay like that until then.
“You still getting their letters,” I asked.
“Yeah. The post office does nothing about it,” my grandfather said. “At least, I get my mail. Want to watch tv?”
“Sure,” and I followed him into the living room. “If you move into our house, you wouldn’t have to deal with them.”
“If they’re not there already, they will be. Give them time,” and he turned on the television set.
“It’s not right.”
“No, it’s not, but nobody can stop them.” My grandfather sat on the couch, and he looked tired, defeated just like those in the diner did. Why was it such a losing war? “There’s a baseball game,” my grandfather said. “Yankees.” He frowned, and I laughed.
“Sure. Why not,” and I sat on the loveseat. “Grandpa, was it always like this? With them?”
“No, but in the end, we knew that they would win, which is why a lot of people left. It’s not right, but what can you do about it?”
“Somebody should do something.”
“People tried. They tried, and it still didn’t work. They knew how to play the game and which cards to use.” My grandfather didn’t speak after that. He just watched the game, and I watched with him.
Five o’clock. The phone returned to its cradle, and it started to ring. The first few calls were them. The last one was my parents. They were coming at seven not eight, so I got my stuff ready. My grandfather was taking another nap, and I didn’t want to disturb him. Instead, I looked outside and stared at them. They stared back, and there was no compassion or forgiveness in their eyes. They were just hollow, knowing what we all knew. They had won, and one day, this house would belong to them.
Six o’clock. My grandfather had his turkey on a roll with mayonnaise and cole slaw. I had a ham sandwich instead with ketchup not mustard. I found packs of ketchup in the food closet, and I had the cole slaw after the sandwich. I chased it all with a glass of water, and my grandfather did the same. As we ate in silence, I wondered, if he would talk to my mother. What would his answer be? He didn’t need this. He didn’t need them terrorizing him. He just needed the quiet. That’s all I wanted for him, and then we heard a knock at the door. Was it my parents, or was it them?
My grandfather opened the front door and then the screen door. My parents waited on the other side. My mother hugged and kissed my grandfather. My dad shook his hand, and they walked inside. As they did, I saw them still standing out there. They won. Can’t they just go home now, but it wasn’t enough. It was never enough for them, and the front door slammed shut.
“Ready,” my father asked me.
“Yeah. Let me grab my stuff. Oh, and I have to clear the table.”
“I’ll do that,” and my mother walked my grandfather into the kitchen, where they could talk.
“He say anything,” my father asked me.
“No,” I said.
“You think he’ll do it?”
“I don’t know. I think he should, but we’re asking him to leave his home.”
“If we’re not asking, then they are.” My father glanced out the window nearby.
“They’re ridiculous,” and I went to get my stuff.
Ten minutes later, my grandfather was waving to us by the front door. I was sitting in the backseat next to my suitcase. I stared at my feet. I didn’t want to look at them. I didn’t hate them. I hated what they were doing, and this was my grandfather’s home. Nobody had the right to ask him to leave. This was where he lived with her. This was where we had spent so many wonderful holidays and memories together. I grew up here, but I still didn’t want him to be alone.
“What did he say?”
“Hope, it’s between your grandfather and I.”
“He doesn’t want to leave.”
“Can you blame him?”
“It’s not good for him to be alone,” my mother replied. “Not with them standing outside or calling him every day. Maybe, if they left him alone, it would be different, but they don’t leave anyone alone. They just keep on coming,” and I could feel the bitterness in her voice.
“I know.” I wanted to do something, anything, but I was one person. What could I do? “Do you mind if I come back next weekend?”
“Only if your grades stay up. You’re going to college soon,” my father said as he drove the car.
“I know. They’ll stay up,” but I started to worry. When I go to college, who would take care of my grandfather? Who would be there for him, if my mother wasn’t? Maybe at that point, he would move into our house. Maybe at that point, they would finally leave, satisfied with what they had taken away, but I doubted it. They would never go away, and one day, they would be knocking on my door.