When we are no longer able to change a situation–just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer–we are challenged to change ourselves. - Victor Frankl
He froze. In an act of will, he forced himself to step forward. The impact of his heel on the concrete jarred him from the voice’s spell.
“Jakob Seilberg, don’t turn your back to me, ... please.”
“Stay here, Donna.” He went to the withered white haired woman. Every step cut him, he died a little... “Hello, Margaret. How are you doing?”
Her gnarled fingers touched the sleeve of his leather jacket. “It’s really you.” She lifted rheumy eyes to him. “I’ve prayed to see you. I’m sorry for the way I treated you. I know it wasn’t your fault and I shouldn’t have done you that way.”
His chest tightened. He whispered in a strangled voice. “Thank you.”
“Mother, are you bothering that boy?”
He pasted a smile on his face. “She’s not bothering me, ma’am.”
The fat woman brushed a gray lock of windswept hair out of her face and smiled. “Thank you, she has Alzheimer’s and will just start babbling on. She took the elderly woman’s arm. “C’mon, we need to get you to the car.”
“Have a good day, ma’am.” After they turned away, he wiped his eyes.
A hand slipped into his. “Are you ok, Bren?”
“Yeah, sometimes, I worry about Grams being like her.”
“What did she want?”
“She thought I was somebody she used to know.”
“That’s life. We need to get you to the double arches to start your shift.”
Donna groaned. “Don’t remind me.”
“Just think, soon, you’ll have enough for your own car.”
She smiled. “There is that isn’t there. Are you picking me up tonight?”
“I don’t know, am I picking you up tonight?” He waggled his eyebrows at her.
“You won’t find out if you don’t show up.”
“It’s not even lunchtime. Why are you drinking?”
“Tend your duties.”
“In case you’re already so drunk you can’t remember, You pay me to be your grandmother. Did you and Donna have a fight?”
“What then, did you tell her?”
“Tell her what, that I’m a monster?”
“You’re not a monster. But, if you plan on staying with her you have to tell her.”
“Damn it, Brendan, what’s wrong?”
“My name is Arnulf.”
Grams recoiled from the steel of his voice. “Why are you being like this?”
“I ran into Margaret today.”
He held up an old black and white photograph of a smiling little boy with a flat top hair cut. “Rolf’s mother.”
His voice cracked, his shoulders shook. “I want my little boy.”
Grams went to his chair and pulled his head against her stomach. “I know Arnie. I miss my Angie, too.”
He clung to her and cried.
Her fingers stroked his cheek until he quieted.
“Why don’t you take a nap. I’ll have a meal ready for you before you pick up Donna.”
Bren gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, Grams.”
“My name’s Amy, you arrogant little prick.” She gave him a squeeze. “Go lay down.”
“I want to make you feel good.”
Bren was speechless. “Just being with you makes me feel good.”
She unsnapped his jeans and pulled them open.
He covered her hands with his. “Stop, I can’t do this to you. I ... I love you.”
She started, her eyes met him, “You do?”
“I love you, too.”
“That’s why we need to talk.”
“I don’t understand.”
He took a deep breath. “I have a weird medical condition.”
“Don’t worry, it’s not contagious. It does impact my life.”
“Are you dying?”
Bren laughed. “No, but, you need to know if we’re going to get serious.”
“What is it?”
“I will never look any different than I do right now.”
“Fifty years from now I will look exactly like this. I know because fifty years ago I looked just like this.”
Donna laughed. “You had me going for a minute.”
“I’m not joking, there’s more.”
Donna grabbed her sides. “Stop it, before I pee.”
“That old woman from this morning, I know her. We were married.”
Donna fell off the bed laughing.
He leaned over the edge.”Are you ok?”
“Yeah, whew, that was fun.” She giggled and raised her hand. “Help me up.”
He gave her a hand. “Since, you’re up, see that chest in my closet? Would you open it and bring me the photo album in it?” When she returned, he patted the bed. “Sit with me.”
He took the album and opened it.
“My passport. Look at it. Be careful, it’s old.”
“This is that name the old woman was yelling?”
He nodded.”That was the name I was going by at the time.”
“I was in the German Army. The Americans captured me in ‘43. I was sent to Farragut Naval Training Station in Idaho. That’s where I met Margaret.” He turned the page. These are from our wedding.” A few pages later, “This ... um ... this is our son Rolf. He died when he was six. Margaret blamed me for his death and divorced me.”
Stars exploded behind his eyes as his head snapped back. “YOU SON OF A BITCH! HOW DARE YOU!” Donna jumped off the bed and snatched her red shirt and bra from the blanket. “I was going to let you. You didn’t have to claim a dead child. You were going to be my first.”
Donna spun towards the door.
“Oh, put your arms down Donna. It’s not like I haven’t seen tits before.”
Donna turned and put her shirt on.
“He’s not lying to you. He’s older than I am.”
“What?” Donna glared at Bren. “You’ve got your Grandmother lying for you.”
“I’m not his grandmother. I’m his personal assistant. I’ve worked for him for thirty years.”
“No, he’s not. That’s what we’re trying to tell you.”
Bren stood. “Show her.”
“Are you sure?”
Gram’s hand blurred. A sledgehammer busted his chest.
The world went black.
Searing pain flashed through him. He sat up. “You shot me three times.”
Grams smiled. “You raised your voice to me this morning, remember?” She held the gun out to Donna. “I shoot him when he pisses me off. He can’t die, but you can sure put a hurting’ on his ass. Would you like a turn?”
“What? No.” Donna backed away. “This isn’t possible. I saw you die.”
Bren pushed himself up. “You did, but, it never sticks. That’s the problem.”
“Donna, while I’m thinking about it, don’t ever try to cut him. He loses his mind.”
Donna threw her hands up at Bren.
“My Father, my mother, Heima and our two children were murdered by raiders.” He hung his head. “That’s the day I found out I can’t die,” Bren whispered. “One of them stabbed me in the heart. I woke up to find my whole family dead.” He sat on the bed and covered his face. He looked up. “Would you like to see a painting of them? I made it about a hundred years after their death. May I share it with you, please?”
“H ... how old are you?”
“Are you sure you want to know?”
Bren sighed. “I don’t know the day or the month. I was born in the spring of 622. So, I turned one thousand, three hundred and ninety-five this year. CATCH HER!”
“Are you ok?”
“You fainted. I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to hurt you.”
Donna refused to look at him. “I want to go home.”
“Ok, I’ll have Amy drive you. Before you leave, I want you to know I do love you and you’re always welcome here.” Bren stood. “Amy?”
“I’ll get my keys.”
“I’ve decided to close the house. I was thinking we could spend a month or so in Jamaica before moving on.”
“Bren, it’s only been a few weeks. Give her a chance. You’re asking a lot from her.”
“Is Henry still working? We’ll need new IDs.”
“We have three sets on the pike. We don’t need to bother Henry.”
“Would you prefer Switzerland or Tennessee?”
Amy laughed. “The Alps at my age? Have you lost your mind? You know, I can’t stand the cold anymore.”
“Tennessee it is.”
“Bren, give her another month and then we can leave if you want. Please.”
“I’ll think about it.”
Bren’s cell phone rang. “Hello.”
“It’s Donna, can I come over?”
“Sure, do you want Amy or me to come get you?”
“No, my parents are letting me use their second car until I get mine.”
“Ok, what time?”
“In an hour?”
“See you then.”
Bren shot into the living room. “SHE CALLED! SHE CALLED!”
Amy slapped his arm.”See, I told you she would come around.”
“She’ll be here in an hour.”
“You stink. Go get a shower and shave. I’ll lay some clothes out for you.”
Bren opened the door. “Hi, c’mon in. Amy made some cake.” He led her to the dining room.
.... There is more of this story ...