He was sitting in his favorite armchair, the winged one with the high back that stood in the corner by the window, covered in worn green velvet and faded by too many years of sunlight. He sighed pleasurably and let his mind drift back.
Those had been terrible times. Frightening. But exciting too. Somehow, with the possibility of death hanging over them every single day, he had never felt as alive as he had during the war. He and Edith had been young, and deeply, passionately in love. Not that they hadn’t been in love later too. They had been lucky, the two of them, finding in each other true love, the one that lasts forever and ever, till death do us part. And even after that, he now knew; death had not put an end to his love for Edith. But during the war — he chuckled as he remembered that night they had made love in the street, his back grazed from the rough stone wall, Edith’s legs clinging to his waist, their mouths feverish with the frenzied excitement of youth and danger.
Their boys had been so little then, blissfully unaware of the risks and perils of surviving through a war, thinking it was all the greatest of games. They were forever getting themselves into terrible scrapes. He smiled now, remembering the time they had found some gunpowder in the corner of the courtyard, and set it off and burned off all their hair and their eyebrows. But he hadn’t smiled then — he had dragged them back by their ears, and Edith had given them each a good, sound slap on the behind
He shifted slightly in the chair, struck by a jolt of sudden recollection. The gun was still in the house, the old one left over from the war. Where was it? Had he stashed it in his desk, or in the pantry, or under the spare bed in the attic? He might even have cleaned and oiled it again already. But where was it now? It was terrible the way he forgot things these days; he was certain he had put the gun somewhere, he just couldn’t remember exactly where.
He leaned on his stick, struggling to get up. He wanted to find the gun today, right now. He wanted to hold it, wanted to touch the smooth, cold metal, and let the memories come flowing back. He wanted to relive those happy, dangerous days. He limped over to his desk and opened all the drawers one by one. It wasn’t there. Briefly, he wondered what all those things were, that strange sharp object, the long flat thing — they seemed familiar, but somehow there seemed to be nothing he recognized. But no matter. Now he simply needed to find his gun.
If Edith had still been here, she would have remembered where he had put it. Edith, his darling Edith, so brave and courageous, always up for anything. He missed her so much, her contagious laugh, the way she would suddenly come up and embrace him from behind while he was working on one of his carpentry projects, all those beautiful things he built for her because he loved hearing her tell him what strong, capable hands he had. He missed her singing, her sweet, clear voice ringing throughout the house as she went about the household chores. But all that was gone now. The house was silent.
He went into the pantry and opened the cupboard, the one where all his tools were kept, the tools he had cherished so much but couldn’t use anymore because his old, wrinkled hands shook so much that he couldn’t be certain he wouldn’t hit his finger instead of the nail. He looked over the shelves, and smiled in relief. Finally — a familiar object. Here it was, his gun. Cautiously, but with the ease that came from years of experience, he pulled it out and walked slowly back to his armchair. He sat down with a sigh of satisfaction.
He had slept with this gun under his pillow for six entire years during the war. Except for those nights when he’d been away, hadn’t been able to come home for some reason, and then Edith, his darling brave Edith, had kept the gun in the pocket of her dress during the day, and under her pillow at night.
Suddenly he heard footsteps coming down the hallway, echoing through the silent house, startling him from his reverie.
“No, Grandpa. It’s me. Grannie’s gone, remember? She died. It’s Judy.”
“Oh. Yes. Of course. My dear Edith — gone. I know. Time goes by so quickly — how long ago did she pass away?”
“It was almost ten years ago, Grandpa. Now won’t you come outside? We’re having lunch in the garden. Here, let me help you.”
The young girl walked over to where he was sitting. “What are you doing with that on your lap?” she asked sharply, a worried frown on her smooth forehead.
“It’s my gun, Edith. I mean Judy. My gun, from the war. The one with which I protected your grandmother and your father and your uncle from the Germans.” He could see from her face that she was upset. Well, of course, it was only natural she would be. Young people these days weren’t used to handling guns, or even to seeing them about the house. And probably a good thing, too. They went to universities and to parties and didn’t worry about guns and bombs and Nazis. She was such a sweet girl, his youngest granddaughter.
“Well, let me put it away now,” she said. “Here, I’ll take it.”
“Careful, my dear, it’s dangerous, and I’m afraid I might have loaded it some time ago, I’m not quite sure.
Gently, her eyes full of pity, Judy lifted the electric drill from her grandfather’s lap, and put it back in the pantry closet with his other forgotten tools, where it belonged.
Nicole Dunaway grew up in Rome, Italy, where she obtained her BA in Contemporary History. She has lived in California, South Africa, Chile and is now based in Argentina with her four children. She has a Masters in Ethnic History and a second one in Education. She has worked in the television/film industry in various capacities, has done volunteer work with several NGOs, has worked for many years as an elementary teacher, and has been a translator for an international news magazine. She has recently edited a book of texts and photographs on Argentina from the perspective of twenty-five women.