He whispered, “I hear something out there. Stay here. I’ll be back shortly.” He grabbed his flashlight and was gone.
I felt excited, then scared. “What if something bad happens to Grandpa? He might need my help.” I didn’t want to admit even to myself that I was afraid of being in that guard shack alone, in a big saw mill, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to be with him. I quietly slipped out the door. I didn’t have a flashlight and couldn’t see a thing. I was even more afraid.
I considered going back in the guard house. Conflicting thoughts and feelings battled in my brain. “What if Grandpa needs me? What can I do? I’m just a kid! He told me to stay in the shack. It’s scarier out here than in there. But, I’m closer to Grandpa out here.” I like to think the question “What if Grandpa needs me?’’ was the only reason I didn’t go back. However, I’m sure the “I’m closer to Grandpa out here” was the more appealing part of my thinking.
“Which way did he go?”
I heard what sounded like loud voices and stumbled in the darkness toward the sounds.
As I got closer, flickering moonlight from a partial break in the clouds created an eerie scene of three angry young men standing in front of Grandpa. I hid behind the corner of a building about twenty feet away. I noticed how old grandpa looked. The lenses in his glasses were as thick as the bottoms of soda bottles. He was never very tall and was now stooped with age. He wheezed from bad lungs as the result of smoking and working in a bakery and saw mill all his life.
I heard Grandpa say, “Boys, you are trespassing and need to leave.”
The biggest one, who stood at least six inches taller than Grandpa, was probably forty pounds heavier, and fifty years younger, looked at his buddies and laughed, sneering, “Go away old man. Our party is just getting started.” He lifted a can of beer and chugged it.
Grandpa sighed, and said bit louder, “Go. NOW!”
The man in the middle took two steps forward and stared in Grandpa’s face, then spit on the ground near Grandpa’s boots. “Who’s going to make me, OLD man?” He pushed Grandpa. Just then, clouds completely covered the moon, and I couldn’t see a thing.
In the darkness, a big bang like a sledge hammer hitting a piece of wooden post hung in the air. When moonlight filtered through like a strobe-light, I only saw three men standing. I panicked until I noticed Grandpa was one of them. In the flickering light, I saw the loud-mouthed thug on the ground writhing in pain and holding a nose spurting blood. His buddies crouched and were ready to pounce. Grandpa rested his palm on the pistol in his holster and calmly said, “I’ve asked you twice to leave. I won’t ask again.”
Whether it was Grandpa’s comment, quick reflexes, or gun—perhaps all three—but, it took the starch out of them. They picked up their writhing ringleader, got in their hot rod, and left in a flickering cloud of dust.
Grandpa saw and walked over to me. I thought I was going to get a lecture about being told to stay in the guard shack. Instead, grandpa just had a wily grin on his face as he said, “They didn’t know I used to be a boxer. C’mon, let’s finish our rounds.”