Grandma's Attic


A young adult adventure story:

Eighteen-year old Jordy was on the verge of graduation, and his future prospects didn't look good. Saddled with part of the emotional and financial responsibilities for his dysfunctional family, he had given up his dreams of attending University until his Grandma's death changed his life.
Grandma's lack of interest in her family and her general meanness had alienated most of her descendants. Only Jordy visited her on a regular basis, prompted by feelings of compassion. Consequently, when she passed on, he was named the sole inheritor of her apparently meager estate.
With only a week to dispose of her possessions before the house was scheduled for demolition, he had to cancel a long-anticipated vacation and enlist the aid of his girlfriend in arranging the funeral and burial, and clear out her belongings.
The treasures discovered in Grandma's attic put Jordy's life in danger from local gangsters, brought him under investigation by the Feds and profoundly affected the lives of his family

PREVIEW
Ma greeted me as I slammed the screen door shut.
"Grandma's dead."
She was parked as usual at the kitchen table with a bottle of rye whisky perched in front of her. A second bottle stood ready to be opened in celebration of the event.
"Yeh, and it's about time," added sister Margery, as she chain-smoked her way through another pack of Camels.
I figured if Dad had been in the room, he would have contributed his two cents worth as well.
I didn't really blame them. Grandma had been difficult to get along with as long as I had known her and much longer according to the rest of the family. They generally used much stronger terms to describe her meanness.
"So, what happens now?" I asked.
"I guess she has to be planted before she gets too rank," Margery observed. "Old Man Lawton went out to the house and found her this morning. He called the police, and they had her carted off to the funeral home. The old creep says we got a week to get her stuff out of the house before he brings in the bulldozer. I guess that's your job, little brother, being as she left all her treasures to you."
"Well, so much for my spring break," I thought. Julie and I had been planning to fly down to Florida with a bunch of friends to party and lay on the beach for a week. Now I had to tell her I couldn't go.
"I don't suppose you're willing to help me with all this?" I asked my sister.
"You know the answer, why ask? You can take all that money you planned to spend on a plane ticket and deal with it."
My sister, at nineteen, is two years older than me, and I figure about five years stupider. She eked out a graduation from elementary school, but her freshman year at high school was too much of a challenge, as is her present employment at Walmart. I figure she has inherited all our family's dumb genes, of which an overabundance exists. I also came to the conclusion my ability to cope successfully in the halls of learning and in everyday life is a genetic gift from ancestral generations, since my father isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer either. In fact, everyone from the last two generations comprise a dedicated group of losers.
I calculated the money I planned to use for the Florida trip would probably just about cover the disposal of Grandma. I had been looking forward to going south, sort of a last fling before I had to hustle a job after graduation. I had hoped to go to college, but helping support my dysfunctional family had killed that dream.
Grandma had purchased a plot in the local cemetery years ago and had buried a couple of stillborns over the years. Enough room remained for her. At least that was looked after. I drove out to the cemetery and arranged for the hole to be dug. "When will the service be held, and who will be conducting?" The caretaker asked.
"As soon as we drop her in."
I thought about the 'conductor' bit with a smile. Every pastor or priest who had ever called on her had been run off with the threat of being shot. Any of them who showed up at the gravesite would be doing it out of some sick sense of revenge. "We won't be having a service. I expect a limited turnout of mourners."
I paid the man then drove to the funeral home to settle accounts with them. When the question of selecting a proper casket came up, I was going to suggest a body bag but thought I might be pushing it. I settled for their cheapest model, which consisted essentially of a painted plywood box with brass hinges. Realizing I was operating on an extremely limited budget, they threw in transportation of the body to the gravesite. They seemed as glad to get rid of her as her family.
As expected, the service consisted of me saying, "goodbye Grandma" and tossing the first shovel full of dirt into the hole. My next task was to go over to Julie's and tell her I would be a no-show on Monday and suggest she should go ahead and enjoy herself with our friends down south.
She thought about it for a minute then said, "Naw, I'm going to check out also. Wouldn't be any fun without you, and besides, I figure you're going to need some help cleaning up the mess. Let's go and find out how bad it really is."
Grandma's house was old, really old. She used to say it was built at the turn of the century. She just never specified which century. It could be classified as a rotted frame design. Wood rot, mildew, mold, termites, carpenter ants, and all those luxuries of country living were well established. It amounted to a challenge to navigate through the building without encountering some form of peril. There was one floor for the living space, which was the only part of the house I had ever seen. It consisted of her sitting room, a tiny kitchen, and her bedroom. Stairs from a back entry led to the basement, which was a hole in the ground enclosed by rotting wooden logs, which supported the house. A set of stairs led from the sitting room to an attic, which had just enough clearance to bang your head every time you moved.
No one, except I, ever visited her. I guess I did it out of some sick sense of guilt or pity, which usually only amounted to once a month. No one phoned her, even though most of the family lived close by. I suspect Grandma eventually had her phone disconnected to avoid the chance one of them might call. No love was lost between members of this gene pool. My visits appeared to have little effect on her. Her grumpiness and downright meanness were too ingrained. Every time I left, I vowed I would never return, but after a few weeks I started feeling sorry for her, so back I went.
Julie walked around shaking her head.
"How could anyone live in this dump? It's horrible. Couldn't she stay with your family, or some other relatives?"
"Would you live in the same house as my bunch? Well, the rest of them are worse."
"Yeh, I get it. What was she like? What did you two talk about?"
"She was a mean-spirited old woman."
"Maybe she was just lonely and unhappy," Julie observed.
"Probably that too, but I don't know. I think it was more like she was so used to being disagreeable she didn't know any other way to act. She didn't talk much, just sat and looked grumpy. If I kept asking questions, she would only reveal little bits of her life. It was like pulling teeth to get any kind of a conversation going. Most of her stories revolved around raising her family. If the whole crew wasn't such a dull lot, the tales might have been interesting, but they weren't, and she repeated the same ones over and over. Every visit would crank up my level of frustration to the point I had to get away. It often struck me strange she never talked about Grandpa to the point that I began to think he had never existed. I had not known him, as he wasn't around when I was younger. When I asked her about him, she would quickly change the subject. Ma had told me that one day he just disappeared, went away and never came back. By then she was the only one living with Grandma. The rest of her siblings had left home. They all cut out at an early age, and secretly congratulated their father when he finally escaped."
As I peered out the dirty flyspecked front window, I spotted Old Man Lawton coming down the lane to find out what was going on. He had bought the property a few years back with the stipulation the house would be temporarily spared and Grandma could call it her home for the rest of her days. The day had come and Lawton wasted no time. I didn't like the man and felt no need to show courtesy or deference to him. I suspected he felt the same way.
"I want this dump cleaned out and all the junk out of here right away."
"That isn't going to happen right away. I plan to carefully go through and sort my grandmother's possessions. This will take time, probably a month."
I could tell I had pushed the right button.
"I told your mother you people can take exactly one week to clear everything out of here," he shouted.
"If you possess a signed agreement to that effect, I would like to see it. Otherwise, I think I should go and talk with the sheriff and relate your demands to a grieving family."
"Who the hell do think you are, a snotty-nosed kid talking to me like this? I ought to beat some respect into you."
"Give it a try, why don't you, and we can both go down and talk to the sheriff."
Without another word, he turned and stomped off down the lane.
The house looked much worse than it did on my last visit over a month ago. Each time I came to see her, I would notice the building slowly deteriorating, but this time it was blatant. The front door hung awkwardly by one rusted hinge and continually banged against the shutters in the slightest breeze. When I pushed it open, a couple of little furry creatures skittered across the floor. The dishes from her last meal lay scattered around the old rocking chair in which she usually sat. The whole place was a disheartening mess. I didn't know where to start. Everything was junk. I had originally considered building a huge bonfire with what would burn and hauling the rest to the dump. However, after my encounter with Old Man Lawton, I decided to give him the pleasure of disposing of all the trash. I rummaged through an old desk but found nothing of interest until I opened a partly hidden drawer near the bottom. It contained only one item, an envelope addressed to me. I opened the letter and read.
Dear Jordy;
If you are reading this then I am no longer among the living. I may not have shown it, but your visits were important to me. I looked forward each month to you coming by to spend time with this crotchety old woman. No one else ever came, and I gave thanks for that. You are my only hope anything worthwhile will come from this family. Don't let them drag you down to their level. As I told you, I am leaving everything I have to you. It will not seem like much at first, but look closely. You will be surprised.
Grandma

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