#91 Burned to Permanence

by Paul Weidknecht

Every Tuesday and Thursday he’d stare at the girls beyond the glass wall. He had a long section of bench to himself, his smell and beard keeping the mothers in oversized sunglasses and Hummers at distance. With muted shouts, fourteen-year-olds tumbled and swung, never knowing their effect on him—their gymnastics practice, his refuge.

Then one day he heard it: Perverted Grandpa. A girl giggled it to her friends, and he’d caught others whisper it twice since. Another told her boyfriend, the one who drove the red pickup, the one who always seemed angry.

After healing, the old man returned. As they tumbled and swung, he absently rubbed the bump on the bridge of his nose, patted the tender flesh under his good eye, accepting these as the costs of creating a memory.

When practice finished, he shuffled down the sidewalk, flinching at horn blasts, eyeing red trucks a moment longer. Turning beneath the wrought-iron arch, he followed the winding drive through the cut lawn, damp mulch rich in the air.

He stopped, again wanting to die, but some wisp of shame kept him from it. So he curled into a ball on the grass, as he had every other Tuesday and Thursday, and looked up. Staring at the birth and death dates on her stone, he recalled exactly where he had been on those two days, both burned to permanence, still wondering why they were only fourteen years apart.

Christmas is a time for love, laughter, and wonder. A Christmas Sampler: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Holiday Tales, is a compilation of twenty-three Christmas stories commissioned by the Bethlehem Writers Group to capture all of Christmas's myriad possibilities.

Paul Weidknecht's "Those Things Remembered" is about a long-time mall Santa who realizes he has forgotten a child's name. Courtney Annicchiarico believes against all evidence that she is pregnant in "Mis-conceptions." Hilarity reigns in Headley Hauser's explanation of a bachelor's Christmas traditions in "A Modern Single Holiday." In Carol L. Wright's "You Better Watch Out" a small-town lawyer takes on a mystery when Santa falls from her roof three weeks before Christmas. In "Walter and Stella," by Ralph Hieb, Walter finds himself dead on Christmas Eve, but refuses to leave his beloved alone for the holiday. And in "The Perfect Gift," Emily P. W. Murphy explores that moment in a relationship when one partner is ready for marriage, and the other seems not to notice.

Click on the cover to visit the book's Amazon page.


Unknown said...

Nice one, but perhaps would have benefited from an extra 50-100 words.

Dino Parenti said...

I agree with Shona that it could've benefited with a little extra length, but what you've got here is tough and sad--in a good way. Nice work.