This is the thirty-ninth part of a fiction serial, in 790 words.
The door was opened by a pleasant, elderly lady. “You must be Julian. I am Mrs Mallory, the housekeeper. They are waiting for you inside, please leave your bag in the hallway and go straight through”. I entered the open double door she indicated with her arm, and was met by a very fat man who looked to be about my age. He extended a hand. “Brad James, the lawyer who wrote to you. Pleased to meet you”.
Just behind James was a man sitting in a large wooden chair. It had to be my grandfather, but he didn’t look old enough. I had been told he was ninety-nine years old, but I wouldn’t have put him a day over eighty. He smiled, revealing very white teeth that I guessed were expensive, and false. “Excuse me for not standing, Julian. I tend to have to pee when I stand up, and wouldn’t like to have to walk straight past you to use the lavatory. Besides, I don’t move so fast these days”.
James stayed back near the door, and I walked over to the chair, extending a hand to the grandfather I had never met nor spoken to. His handshake was firm, though the skin on his hands betrayed his age more than the rest of him. “Delighted to finally meet you, grandfather”. He waved that away. “No need for that now you’re a grown man. Just call me Phin. Sit down, son. Would you care for something to eat or drink?” I shook my head, trying to take it all in. The house hadn’t seemed to have changed since at least the twenties. It was more like a museum than a home.
His voice was warm when he spoke again. “Can’t say whether or not you look like me. Don’t see so good these days, y’know. Not the details, anyways”. I hope you can stay for a while? I have a great deal to tell you”. I told him I could stay as long as he liked, and he insisted that I stay at the house. “Plenty of room here, and family is especially welcome”.
Brad James excused himself, saying he would return the following day with papers for me to sign. Phin grinned. “It’s all yours, Julian. You’re all I got left now”. Mrs Mallory prepared a meal anyway, and she helped Phin through into the dining room, via a stop at a lavatory in the hall. He was right when he said he didn’t move that fast, I had to hold back to save walking into him.
The housekeeper spoke in a whisper to me. “He is so excited about your visit, but you must promise not to let him stay up too late. I like him to eat early, then he takes his medicine and goes to bed by nine”. I assured her that I had no intention of disrupting their established routine.
Over dinner, I let him talk, and was fascinated by the story he started to tell. When he went to bed, I had coffee in the living room and made some notes about what he had said. It dawned on me that his life story would make a great book. From the Civil War to the end of the Korean War, and everything in between. The start of the migration west in a big way, and the frontier towns full of cowboys, gamblers, and gunfighters. He had seen it all.
The next morning at breakast, I asked if he would mind me telling his story in a book, and he grinned. “Moby Dick, now that’s a good book. You ever read that one, Julian? Do you think you can be as good as Mr Melville?” I told him I had read it, and would try my best to do his story justice.
Mrs Mallory intervened, as she had overheard the conversation from the kitchen. “Not for too long each day now. He has to rest in the afternoons, or he can’t eat dinner. And don’t you go getting him too excited neither”. Phin turned his head in my direction, and gave me a big wink.
Brad James arrived with the paperwork, and gave me some things to sign. Phin had already signed his parts. He also handed me a fat folder full of papers. “You can look these over at your leisure, or pass them on to your lawyer if you wish. They are shares, stocks, and the like. Also the deeds to the land, and various monetary amounts due to you upon the death of Mister Fuller”.
When James turned to leave, I asked him if I could ride with him back into Wichita. I had some things I needed to buy.