Grandpa's Dream: A Short Story
“Can you pass the gravy?”
A tiny left hand reached for the gravy holder – a porcelain genie’s bottle type thing with an open spout – lifted it shakily, and placed it next to her grandfather. He picked it up while scratching his old beard and watched the caramel liquid slowly coat his turkey and potatoes. Placing the bottle back on the table left a thud that echoed through the room like a door slamming in a silent church. The sound fluttered over them and disappeared into the music of crickets in the night.
“Have any good dreams lately?”
She slowly stirred her bowl of soup and mumbled a quiet but sweet, “mm mmm,” shaking her head no.
“Well… Can I tell you about one that I had?”
She stared into her soup and nodded solemnly. It’d been a sad week.
He put down his fork and yearned for her eyes.
“I was in a park with a giiiiaant willow tree… as big a tree as you’ll ever see – even in a dream – and the sky was a painted swirl of violet and orange. Prettiest colors these eyes had ever seen in my whole life. So I picked up a large stick, made it my staff, and marched under the willow tree to see what it’d be like to sit under its huge drooping branches and leaves.”
“When I got to the trunk of the tree I noticed a door in its bark, just big enough for me to fit into. I looked back up at the sky through the branches and the pretty rays of color shined all over me. It was beautiful… but I knew that I had to go through the door – it was made for me you know.”
He winked at her, still painting circles in her soup but listening intently all the while.
“Anyway, I opened the door and there was a penguin in a top hat waiting for me inside. He said he’d been waiting for me for a long time… Then he lit a lantern, turned around, and started heading down a spiral staircase. I asked him where he was going and he said, ‘To the center of the earth. Come.’ So I followed him, step by step on these old, worn, creaking wooden stairs, down into the center of the earth. It was SO dark in there... All I could see was his top hat in the light of the flickering flame. At some point I started to worry, but I had no choice but to trust him – we’d already gone too far.”
“After walking for what felt like years, we reached the last step and were at another door, and the penguin turned around to me –,” the grandfather waddled in his chair like a penguin would, “– and he asked, ‘Are you ready?’. Hell, I looked at him and said ‘Ready as I’ll ever be!’ And he smiled right back at me and opened the door with his wing.”
He slowly pushed open an imaginary door over the dinner table.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw... It was a room filled with white light, so bright and wondrous and infinite, and at the center of it was a small table with two cups of tea and two golden chairs. A furry creature was sitting at the table waiting for me too. I couldn’t make out who it was at first, but as I got closer I saw the outline of a familiar face and a bushy tail poking through the chair. It was Milo! I turned to the penguin to try to make sense of all this and he disappeared. Vanished into thin air! So I looked back to Milo and he was gesturing for me to sit for tea. He was all grown up! And speaking English! We sat and talked about everything that’d happened since he left and all the good times we’d shared. He looked really happy… and then he told me that he had a secret to tell you.”
“Really? What’s the secret?” she asked, glowing with a bit of curiosity now.
“You have to lean in close to hear it,” he whispered, “Milo said I have to make sure the crickets aren’t listening.”
She leaned in close to her grandfather and he licked her cheek.