Sunday, October 2, 2016
1st 5 Pages October Workshop - DLE
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary, with magical realism
Title: Harvey the Bedazzler
It’s weird to go to a stranger’s funeral, especially when it’s your grandfather’s. But there we were, headed to Amelia Island to “pay our respects” to a man I’d only seen once when I was a baby and again when I was five. Pay our respects…what a weird thing for Dad to say, seeing as how he didn’t seem to respect Grandpa Harvey all that much.
At first I’d begged Mom to let me stay home. I mean, I barely knew my grandfather, and I’d planned my first week of summer already. It was opening week for the neighborhood pool and my only chance to win back my former best friend, Jenna.
But Mom wouldn’t understand, so I’d reminded her about the mile-long seventh grade gifted summer reading list and how she’d forgotten to get the books from the library. It would take an average of 19.5 pages each day, including weekends, to finish before school started again, and I had to get to the library pronto.
But she’d said, “Forget it, Sydney. We’re not leaving an eleven-year-old girl home alone while the rest of us go to Florida.” When I reminded her I’d be twelve in thirty-seven days, she gave me a disappointed look like I should be ashamed for trying to get out of going to my grandfather’s funeral.
She was right. I was a horrible person.
At least she let me sit up front with Dad so my younger brother and I were separated for the almost six-hour drive from Atlanta to Amelia. Will had a way of getting on my last nerve, and according to my parents, I had a way of making him pitch an annoying fit. This seating chart was much quieter.
I shifted in my seat, trying to see Dad’s expression. He hadn’t said much since he’d gotten the call from Uncle Bennett saying Grandpa Harvey had died in his sleep of a brain aneurysm. Mom told me that’s when one of the arteries in the brain ruptures and causes a stroke. She said some people can survive a brain aneurysm and a stroke if they get help right away, but Grandpa Harvey had been alone.
I leaned against the headrest and stared out the window while Dad thumped the steering wheel to the beat of the song playing on the radio. In the side mirror I could see Will with his head on mom’s lap. She stroked his hair like a mama baboon. Her nine-year-old, two-ton baby.
“Did you pack your bathing suit?” Dad asked.
“What?” I shook my foot. It had fallen asleep and felt as heavy as a backpack full of rocks.
“Your swimsuit,” he said. “You can’t be this close to the Atlantic Ocean and not get in.”
But this wasn’t a vacation. “I didn’t bring it,” I said. I waited for him to make a suggestion. No problem, we’ll pick something up at Walmart. Or You can swim in your shorts. He was always loaded with solutions. He taught college calculus and other you’d better be really smart math classes. Solving things was his job.
But he looked straight ahead at the road.
“There’s always skinny dipping,” I said, trying to be funny.
“You could do that,” he said, straight-faced like he hadn’t really heard me.
What was it like to have your dad die? I wondered. It had to be sad. I should be sad. But it’d been so long since I’d seen Grandpa Harvey. Six years to be exact.
Dad propped his elbow on the door and his pointer finger rested on his lips. The conversation vault was locked so I fluffed my pillow and leaned against it as the mile markers went by.
“He loved the ocean.”
“What?” I sat up. “Who?”
“Your grandfather,” he said softly. “The ocean, traveling, and telling stories,” he added. “Only not in that order. Storytelling was definitely an obsession.”
“Stories?” I leaned in closer. This was good—Dad was going to tell me about Grandpa Harvey. I’d get to know him just in time to miss him, but still, it was something.
“We ate it up, too,” Dad said, still staring at the road. “Bennett and I would wait for him to come home from being out of town, working who knows where. Mom would fix him something to eat and we’d all sit at the table, ready to hear about the bear he’d wrestled, or the bank robbery he’d foiled, or how he’d saved a bunch of people from a burning building.”
Why didn’t I know this? Grandpa Harvey was a hero. This was exactly what I needed—stories to impress Jenna and the other middle table people in the cafeteria once school started again. It’d be good-bye to hiding behind a book and hello to saying something that was actually interesting.
“People would even stop him on the street,” Dad said. “‘What do you have for us today, Harvey?’ they’d ask, wanting to hear one of his tales.” Dad paused. He had a faraway look like he was back in time. “It was all so—” His forehead wrinkled.
“Awesome?” I asked. “Exciting?”
Dad turned to me. “I was going to say embarrassing.”
“He’d made it all up,” Dad said. “Lies. Stories to make himself seem big—important.”
My heart ached for Dad. And maybe a little for me. But it’s not like I’d ever be brave enough to tell a story at lunch in the seventh grade. Or ever.
“You and Will never have to worry about that, okay?” Dad said.
“The whole truth and nothing but the truth,” he said, raising his right hand off the steering wheel. “With me, what you see is what you get.” He pushed the scan button until he found a sports talk station.
I nodded. The problem was, what I saw, I didn’t get. Not anymore. He’d been different the past few months; I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
We passed a highway sign telling us there were only 30 more miles to Amelia and the only thing standing in our way was a huge four-lane bridge. It stretched for miles over the Intracoastal Waterway.
Mom and Will were sacked out in the back, their mouths wide open. They looked like twins, thirty years apart.
People said I resembled my dad. I didn’t see it, especially now that he’d grown THE BEARD. It scratched my face when I hugged him and Mom hated it. Maybe she was right. Maybe he’d grown it like a fence, to keep others out. That’s what she told my aunt anyway, in a conversation I wasn’t invited to.
“Stay right on A1A,” the GPS lady said once we reached solid ground again. Dad turned up his phone. It was probably so he wouldn’t miss any important details. Grandpa Harvey had retired on the island and Dad hadn’t been there any more often than I had. My dad was super smart, but sometimes he accidentally took the long way to places.
“In five miles, turn left at Sand Dollar Avenue,” the lady navigator said, waking Mom and my brother.
“Can we take a dolphin cruise?” Will asked as we passed a billboard advertising them.
Okay, if he was getting a dolphin cruise, I was going to ask for a side trip to Disney World. It was only 175 miles from here. I’d looked it up before we left home.