Martha finished sealing the long, slender box with strapping tape. She wrote the buyer’s address with indelible magic marker. She would send it registered mail to assure safe arrival.
“Charlie, are you ready to go to the post office? Grandpa’s cane’s ready to mail,” Martha said.
“Yes.” Charlie ran to the closet for his jacket. He opened the door to the garage for Martha, who carried the box containing the cane as solemnly as if it were a precious vase.
Charlie was already in his booster seat, struggling with the safety belt when Martha closed the lid of the trunk.
“Mom, Mr. Sheiffeld will call as soon as he gets Grandpa?”
“He’s going to send me an e-mail on the computer as soon as he receives the package. I’ll let you read it as soon as I get it.”
“You’re sure that Grandpa will be there too?”
“Yes. Of course. Do you ever remember seeing Grandpa without his cane?”
“No,” Charlie said. “Grandpa hit me with the cane one time. I was making too much noise during Wheel-of-Fortune, so he couldn’t hear what Vanna was saying.”
“He was old and sick. It made him kind of cranky.” A couple of blocks from the post office, it started raining, and Martha turned on the windshield wipers.
“Grandpa hit Benny real hard one time with the cane because he puked on the floor,” Charlie said. “I never let Benny near Grandpa again. I stayed away too.”
“Grandpa never let me have a pet, not even a fish or a turtle.” That’s why she got Benny from the Humane Society when Charlie was two years old.
“Why’d you let him come and live with us if he was so mean?”
“Well, he got so he couldn’t take care of himself anymore. He didn’t have enough money to go to the assisted living home like Aunt Judy did.”
“Why was he so poor? Grandma had lots of money. She always brought me presents when she visited.”
“Grandma divorced Grandpa when I was a teenager. Grandma made all the money. Grandpa was always poor after that.” Martha parked the car in front of the post office and got the cane out of the trunk while Charlie freed himself from the booster seat.
“I’m sorry Grandma’s dead,” Charlie said. “She was nice. I miss her. Her and Benny.”
“I do too, honey.”
“But I don’t miss Grandpa.”
“I know, honey.” The post office was almost empty, and Martha went to the counter with the box.
“Any breakables, liquids, explosives, foreign substances or other dangerous materials?” the postal clerk said.
“Just bad memories,” Martha said. “What’s the quickest way to get it there?”
After Martha finished with the postal clerk, she took Charlie’s hand to return to the car.
“How much did Mr. Sheiffeld pay for Grandpa’s ghost?” Charlie said.
“Oh, man. He got gypped.”
“Maybe we should stop at the Humane Society and get another dog?”
“You’re sure Grandpa’s gone?”
BIO: Andrew Hogan received his doctorate in development studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before retirement, he was a faculty member at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, where he taught medical ethics, health policy and the social organization of medicine in the College of Human Medicine.
Dr. Hogan published more than five-dozen professional articles on health services research and health policy. He has published sixty-eight works of fiction in the Sandscript, OASIS Journal (1st Prize, Fiction 2014), The Legendary, Widespread Fear of Monkeys, Hobo Pancakes, Twisted Dreams, Long Story Short, The Lorelei Signal, Silver Blade, Thick Jam, Copperfield Review, Fabula Argentea, The Blue Guitar Magazine, Shalla Magazine, Defenestration, Mobius, Grim Corps, Coming Around Again Anthology, Former People, Thrice, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Black Market Lit, Paragraph Line, Subtopian Magazine, Pine+Basil, Festival Writer: Unpublishable, Fiction on the Web, Children, Churches and Daddies, Midnight Circus, Stockholm Review of Literature, Lowestoft Chronicle, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Spank the Carp, Beechwood Review, Pear Drop, Marathon Review, Cyclamens and Swords, Short Break Fiction, Flash: International Short-Short Story Magazine, Slippery Elm Online, Story of the Month Club, Birds Piled Loosely, Zero Flash, Canyon Voices, Alebrijes, Rose Red Review, Yellow Chair Review, Serving House Journal, Funny in Five Hundred, Penny Shorts, The Thoughtful Dog.