My Grandfather's Secret
Updated: Feb 3, 2022
By Jillian McWhirter:
Flapper Press publishes short fiction from writers from around the globe. This week we feature another work from Jillian McWhirter.
The days were long with the sun beating down on the empty sidewalks. Everyone stayed inside; well, the people that were still alive stayed inside. I was alone, no loved ones, no pets, no one left but me. The heat and lack of water caused my loved ones to die in front of me while they begged for one more sip of water. Why I was still alive and able to survive on a few sips of water a day was beyond me, but each day I woke up, not even wanting to. I wanted to leave this Godforsaken place.
But again, I woke up to the blinding sun pouring in through my windows. I staggered into my kitchen to see what was left to eat. Another raw potato for breakfast and lunch. I had learned to grow potatoes without much water. I had learned to start a fire and cook the potatoes many different ways—ways you would never see in a cookbook.
I spent my lonely days reading the books that had sat on my bookshelves for years. Why? Because now I had the time to read them all. It was that simple. I picked up one of my last books to read and start my escape, but as I opened the pages, a necklace fell onto the wooden floor. I picked the necklace up. It was a gold and heart-shaped laced with pearls. I didn’t recognize the necklace at first, but as I held it, rubbed it, and examined the picture that was inside the heart I realized it was my grandmother’s necklace she had lost and begged for on her deathbed. A tear fell off my cheek as childhood memories flooded my imagination. My grandmother wanted to hold this necklace because it was a treasure that my grandfather gave her. The picture was a picture of them on their wedding day. They were so in love, so much the same person, so much to remember that I had forgotten.
As my imagination raced, I looked up and saw my grandfather walk into the room. He sat across from me and smiled. My brain knew he couldn’t be real, but my heart longed for him to hug me. He started talking about things that only he would know. We laughed, we cried, we saw the hopeful past. And then my grandfather started to talk about the world's situation. Now, did he know we were running out of water? How did he know farmers couldn’t grow food like they used to or that the cattle were dying off. The world was at its end, and he was there talking about hope to me. Hope that everything would be okay. I was baffled.
Then my grandfather stopped talking and stood up. He walked to the front door and turned to me. “Come on.” And just like that, he vanished through the door. I jumped up, opened the door, and raced outside. I saw my grandfather walking away. Maybe I had died and moved to the other side. Maybe I was hallucinating. Who knew? But right now, this was the only person I had to talk to. So, I ran after him.
Grandfather stopped in an open space and looked at me. “Here is where you should be. Here is where you’ll find what you need.” Then he disappeared. I ran to where he had been standing, and he was gone, just gone, and I was alone once again. What was he trying to tell me, I thought to myself. Then a bird landed on the ground next to me. The bird picked a worm out of the soil and quickly flew away.
I bent down and touched the soil. It was damp, not hard like the other soil I had been searching through. Hope raced over me. I dug my nails into the soil, and the more I dug the wetter the soil became. Was there water here?
I ran back to my house, grabbed a shovel, and then ran back to the damp soil. I dug for hours, digging deeper and deeper; and there I was, standing in water. Water! Standing in water. We would be okay, I cried out. I would share all the water. We could grow food and raise cattle and chickens again. We would be okay. We would survive.
But, I suddenly stopped digging. I looked around. And then I started digging again, but only to cover the hole. To cover the water. I took a deep breath and thanked my heart-shaped necklace; I thanked my grandfather. I put the necklace around my neck. I put a flag in the ground so that I wouldn’t forget where the water was, and I walked back to my home. I wanted a few days of peace, a few more days to reflect where my heart truly was. And then my grandfather and I would bring the rest of the world into our heart-shaped secret.
Raised in Mississippi, Jillian McWhirter moved to Paris and New York to pursue modeling before moving to Los Angeles to start her film and television career. She has written numerous feature film scripts and has published over thirty educational books that are used by health and safety organizations all over the United States.
Read Elizabeth Gracen's interview with Jillian McWhirter here.
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