Thursday, April 14, 2022

Microstory 1864: That’s It

Here’s a story for ya. You can either choose to believe it or not, but I’m telling you, it happened, and it happened to me. My father and his father did not have a good relationship. According to what little my mother was able to relay to me, they fought all the time when he was young, and then they just stopped talking completely. I don’t know what they were so angry at each other over, but whatever it was, it’s the reason I never met my grandfather. When he died, he left no one to go to his funeral, let alone plan it. I decided to take up the responsibility of putting him to rest. Because hey, if my dad wouldn’t tell me what the guy did that was so wrong, he couldn’t expect me to hate him as much as he did. Four hundred bucks gets you a bag of your loved one’s ashes, and that’s pretty much it. I didn’t hold a service, and I didn’t buy a fancy urn. I just kept it in the cardboard box that the guy at the morgue went out of his way to tell me was included free of charge, and walked away with the rest of his personal effects. And when I say effects, I really just mean the one thing. Besides his pajamas—which he died in, and I didn’t want back—the only possession he had was a key around his neck. Per the paperwork, he lived only a few blocks from my childhood home, which makes the whole thing even sadder. I took that key, drove to my grandfather’s house, and unlocked the door. The place was immaculate. No dust, no dirt, no smudges on the windows. It looked like it had just been cleaned, but it couldn’t have, because it was missing the smell of cleaning chemicals. Oh, and everything else. Like the man himself, the only thing in the house was a key, hanging from the chain for the entryway light. I tried it on every interior door, but it didn’t work anywhere. It didn’t even fit. I had to investigate, which was harder back then, because my phone couldn’t magically spit out information about it just by taking a picture, like my grandson’s does. He showed me that once.

I went to three locksmiths until one happened to recognize it. It belonged to a storage facility on the edge of town. Most facilities require that the renter use their own lock, but this particular location prided itself in excellent security. Their keys couldn’t be copied, and you couldn’t use it unless you were already on the list of people allowed to access the unit. Still, I figured I might as well go check it out in case they made an exception. They didn’t have to. Their records showed that I was on the list, as was my grandfather, and nobody else. He left this all for me. Whatever was in there, it must have been pretty special. Was it a pristine collection of rare figurines worth millions? Did he just leave me a chest of actual millions? Could it be a creepy, ominous freezer, inside of which was the dead body of his archnemesis? I just kept thinking of all the amazing things that could be waiting for me, and nothing was even close to what I ended up finding when I opened that roll up door. Was this it? I was about to run back to the office to ask for a flashlight, but the guy who signed me in had followed me, and had one at the ready. I switched it on, and shined it all over the unit. “Any secret entrances?” I asked. No, this was it. Both of the neighboring units were recently emptied, in between renters. This. Was. It. On the floor in the center of the unit was a key, like someone had dropped it without noticing. But it wasn’t just any key. It was the key to my parents’ house. It looked exactly like the one on my keychain. All that anticipation just to learn that my mom had given him access to our house in case of emergency, and he had never used it. That’s it.

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