Your grandfather has worn an eye patch for as long as you’ve known him and has a given different stories about how he lost his eye. On his deathbed he calls you to his side and tells you the real story
He changed it every time.
Your grandfather was a 6, 10 giant, towering over everyone both inside and outside the family. With 3 sons and 2 daughters, a total of 8 grandchildren, you’d think someone would have managed to at least reach his ear, even the tallest had to strain their neck to look at the mans eyes. Or eye. Ever since his children could remember the man had only had one, with one side being covered with a thick leathery red blemish and a cauliflower ear. No one knew howd these injuries happen or even if they were the result of the same incident. Certainty before he got married, if the wedding pictures on the mantle were to be believed.
As a good natured man, hed make the most of it by using them in lessons. Featuring them in ghastly tales that kept his children in line.
“Don’t run with your shoes untied! I lost my eye when I tripped and slammed my face on a birch tree ”
“Remember to never put out a grease fire with water. Let my face be a pretty reminder of what can go wrong”
“Be grateful I’m just grounding you, when I broke a plate, my aunt clobbered my ear and left it permanently deformed.”
“What do you mean thats not how its done? Back in my day you’d put your head against a tree and knock to know if anything was living inside it. I did it so many times my ear stayed that way”
As his kids grew up the stories would get crazier and crazier, his one brown eye sparkling with glee.
“You’re dropping out of HS to become a singer? Well I wanted to be a pirate and did the same. Now I have one less eye to catch mike cheating at cards”
“Yes yes, she’s a very pretty gal. But when I chased someone else’s girlfriend, his buddies pined my face against a motorcycles tires and sped up. Just wait for her to make the decision”
“A friend bet me 5$ dollars to a staring contest. I really needed the money and that eye dried out too fast”
They also doubled as a way to gage his mood. On bad days, when no job was lined up for the week or he'd lost a few games. Or during one of his chronic headaches that tended to last for days and kept him in a fog. His response would become short and stiff. Many believed these were closer to the truth
“War. Grenade shrapnel. Only survivor.”
“What do you want me to say. Fought off a bear trying to eat my dog. He still did”
“Stupid kids playing mad scientist. They should have been jailed.”
Over the years, people laid off and slowly let it go, seeing past a mangled visor that could have been a handsome face. But not you. You never stopped. Asking, prodding, pleading. You wrote his answers down with a religiose fervor that worried your parents into asking him to simply give you the straight truth. Your grandfather would just chuckle and nod his approval.
To you, the curiosity wasn’t really because of the injuries themselves. Sure they were visible and covered most of his face, but his charm tended to make most forget. No, the curiosity stemmed that no one knew a dam thing about him.
Hed gotten married late in life at 40, with a 15 year age difference with his wife, causing a real scandal at the time. A man from out of town seducing the local heartthrob and settling down in less than a year was unheard of and not many people liked his marred face, but his height and muscle kept them at bay. The happy couples contrast attracted the nickname local beauty and the beast, earning an admiration that would spam several generations. Everyone wanted to be like him, even you.
Yet that was as far back as anyone else recall. No one knew what had happed in those 4 decades before, or why’d hed left it behind with such ease, never reminiscing on an old life.
Therefore, his scars were visible history, proof of some unknown time that others weren’t privy to. A scenario where such a strong, tall, and smart man could have been reduced to a scabbed over mess. Once you were old enough to understand what the markings meant, could mean, it scared you.
And so, when the doctors had diagnose him with late stage prostate cancer, the crashing realization of his humanity sunk in. As such a mysterious, almost fictitious person being degraded to a pile of breathing bones, his pasty skin so similar to the beard he use to sport. You missed the ideal he use to represent, the stability.
Its late, most have gone home. Your family has agreed to watch him in shifts so as to make sure he’s always with someone (the fraise ”in case he passes on” was whispered). As your mother goes to the cafeteria for some midnight snacks, you hear the harsh intake of breath that always accompanies his sudden waking. A nightmare. Or pain. No one could tell these days, they seem to come by easily enough together,
“Pawpaw?” Hed hated the nickname, so obviously, his wife, rest her soul, made sure it stuck.
“Get over here.” A hacking cough rattled his frame as you inched forward to the seat next to him.
“Take it off.” You look at him confused.
“My eye patch; take it off” Shocked, you inched the material off him, his usual black one being replaced by the sanitized hospital brand.
“Good. Now carefully take out what’s inside my eye socket” You choke, asking for confirmation
“Inside. There’s a small cylinder. Don’t worry, the nerves around it are long dead so it wont hurt me. Also I’m so hyped on pain killers even if I could feel.”
Trying not to show your disgust, you bend over him using your thumb and index on one hand to keep it open. With your other hand you reach in with only one finger an mange to hook a small object. As quickly as possible, you pull it out, not wanting to feel the slimy interior, or to become aware of how cold your grandfathers face felt. How delicate.
After a quick dry and replacing the eyepatch, you look at your hand. The cylinder was made of metal, with the length of two knuckles on your pinky, with a thickness of a pencil; it has a slightly thicker top . Maybe titanium.
Before he could even prompt, you unscrewed the lid, turning its content on to your trembling hand. A small, tightly rolled parchment rolled out.
“You wanted answers, that’s it.” His monotone voiced matched his expression as he stared and at the ceiling.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted to tell you, but I won’t be long and I’ll be dammed if some creep doctor finds it when checking me over. I figured you’d be the best, if not, my only option”
A small smile graced his features
“If I’m honest, I almost hope you take inspiration from it. Pick up where I left off. No one seems to have any passion in our family. Just start at the begging and work your way through, adding your own taste as time goes on, be an original taking inspiration from one of the greats.”
Your mother walks in just then, balancing a bag that crackled with aluminum and a coffee in each hand.
“Oh your awake! Did I interrupt something?”
“Nothing, just discussing they’re vocational careers from next year. It’s about time the kid decided on something other than just toying in my old home workshop.”
As the conversation droned to the mundane, you pocked the paper, forgetting it until you return to your home a week later, hearing families scuffle to prepare for the funeral.
You unroll it, revealing several sheets that have been kept together with age. One has list of names, over 15, with abbreviations for what seemed to be states from all over the country. Brief short hand is also listed, but you can’t figure that they say. The other has a scratched up map, detailing a spot at some reserve, with treasure map features that included an over penned x.
Confused, you list 3 in the middle that appear to share a last name.
MISSING SIBLINGS: three siblings disappear without a trace barely a block from home. All that was found was evidence of a scuffle.
Your heart stopped. Lies.
You quickly input other names
RUNAWAY WIFE: why’d she leaves her children
PARTY GOES MISSING: campers could still be on the mountain
FOUND SHIPMENT, NO SHIPPER: a missing truck was found a few miles from its destination, but without the company’s driver. Police are still looking.
The words reverberated on the screen, your empty stomach contracting in hopes of easing the tension. You finally make it to the last name. This one was underlined several times over, anger evident in each indented stroke.
Trembling, you type:
Local boy makes it out: A young boy of 13 years (identity not mentioned for legal reasons) managed to escape a kidnapping attempt. He described a tall man with heterochromia and a visible birth mark the size of a small coin under his right blue eye. Officers warn that the man is armed and quite dangerous, do not approach. Please call if you know anything.
As the funeral goes on, you wonder: between the whispers of sadness and nostalgic memories you realize that only you will have ever known your grandfather, and only you will ever be as good as him.
You finally got your answer.