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“Come back and sit down. I’ve made another drink.” George said.
I had been staring down the attic window for some time now. Gini was playing in the backyard and I loved watching her, lost in her own world. I also loved the last warm rays of the dying sun that were coming in through the pane. George complained some more and I decided to turn my back to the beautiful summer evening. I guess he only loved a well made glass of cheap whiskey. I moved a bit inwards and then waited for my eyes to adjust to the relative darkness of the attic. I had placed all the things in here myself at some time or the other but now at this age these things had the capability of hurting me if I wasn’t careful. As my eyes adjusted things started appearing in front of me, some of them bringing back memories as far back as my childhood and some seeming like I had never seen them before. I walked slowly towards George and the glass of liqueur he was holding out for me. It had become a habit now to spend my evenings this way with the best friend I had ever had. We had been friends so long that I didn’t even remember how we had met. But I knew he had been there for me through out my life. And now he was the only one still with me.
“It’s been a good summer. Last year it was too hot. This year it’s been just right.” George liked to make statements like this out of nowhere. I had never been able to make judgements like this about the weather or about people on my own but every time George made them, they seemed right. He was a smart man, George, but he spoke too much. I on the other hand was always considered smart because I spoke less.
“Gini is sure growing up fast isn’t she?” he made another attempt at starting a conversation. I smiled. Gini was 6 years old. I was 68. Six years were all her life and for me they seemed nothing. Just a lot of free time most of which I had spent in the hospital and the rest up here in the attic. George had been with me all the time.
“Edwards? You okay?” George used my full name only when he was serious or worried about me. I realised I had not spoken for a long time. I tried to think of something to say but all I could manage was a dumb “yeah”. I added “I’m fine” to sound more reassuring.
“This whisky is so bland. Where did you get it?” George continued as if he had never been concerned.
“Michael got it. It’s not that bad.” I said.
“Well it tastes like it was made out of a whole lot of crap. You know Ed, Michael really turned out to be a shame. The guy is a total failure. He can’t control his wife, can’t keep a job let alone take care of his old man. You know Ed…..”
“George……” I cut him off. I didn’t want to know how big a failure my son had been. Maybe because I would have felt like a hypocrite, calling him a failure. I had tried my best but some things in life just don’t turn out the way you want them to.
“You did your best as a father Ed.” He said almost reading my mind.
“You were just unlucky to get a thankless bastard like him for a son.”
I was about to tell him to stop when I heard Gini coming up the stairs. I hid the glasses and the bottle behind my chair.
“Grampaaaa” she screamed while still on the stairs.
“It’s alright Gini, come up, I’m here.” Kids are always scared of the attic.
“Mom is saying that it’s time for dinner and that you have to come down now. What are you doing here?” she stopped for a breath and then continued “Look what I found in the backyard. It’s shaped like a bird!” She opened her little palm and showed me a stone that looked like an eagle. Kids know what the real treasures of life are. “Okay now come on let’s go down. Mom has ordered pizza and there’s icecream for dessert.” She was offering me incentives.
“You go down and tell your mom I’ll be down in a moment. Okay?”
She said “okay” and ran down the stairs screaming “Mommmmm”.
George picked up the glasses and gave one to me. “She is the only person who can make you smile” he said. I realised I had been smiling since she had screamed grampa.
“She has an innocence that Michael never had as a kid.” I said, realising it as I said it. Before George could say something I added “maybe he’s a better father than I ever was.” George tried to say something comforting but failed and ended up just staring at the floor. He only failed to comment on something when he knew it would hurt me.
“Want another one?” he said finishing the remaining whisky in one gulp. Michael came up the stairs before I could refuse the offer.
“Come on dad it’s time for dinner.”
I nodded and tried to get up as fast as I could as I didn’t want him to see the bottle of whisky.
“Why are you sitting here in the dark” he said and switched on the lone bulb in the attic.
“What’s this dad? You promised you wouldn’t drink more than one glass everyday. Look at that, the bottle is almost empty. I just got it this Saturday.”
I wanted to protest that it was George who had finished most of the bottle but I knew it was a waste of time trying to make him believe in George.
He stared at me for a while as if I had let him down and then turned away and left, saying “we are waiting for you” from the stairs.
I switched the light off and started going down the stairs.
“Goodnight Edwards.” George said with a sad smile.