The Past Cannot Stay Hidden
Trigger warnings at bottom of the page.
They say everyone who looks into their family history will find a secret, eventually. I had always thought that didn’t apply to my family. They were all far too dull, too prim and proper to have any interesting secrets.
Then someone killed my granddad’s dog.
We found Rufus in the garden, eyes wide, blood and foam running from his mouth. He was cold and hard to the touch. Granddad had lifted him up, cradling the small dog in his big-knuckled hands. Watching my grandfather like that reminded me of when grandma had been dying. She had been so frail towards the end, a collection of bird bones cradled by Granddad’s gentle, powerful hands.
We buried Rufus behind the house, near the rosebushes.
A few days passed, then someone started defacing his car. Great long scratches appeared down the side, more and more every day. Then the following week the tyres were cut, then a few days later the windscreen broken.
Someone was targeting granddad.
“So, you won’t be sending officers over?” Mum, on granddad’s phone, sounded defeated.
“I told you they wouldn’t.” Granddad folded his arms across his chest and leaned back in the old armchair. “You’re wasting their time with this nonsense.”
“It’s not nonsense.” I stood up from the sofa and walked to the window, peering out around the curtains. “Someone’s got it in for you.”
“It is nonsense.” Granddad glared at mum. “Hang up, Lydia.” I glanced at mum who thanked the person on the end of the phone and hung up. Mum never argued with granddad.
“You know.” Mum handed the phone back to granddad. “I think we should go, if you’re sure it’s nothing to worry about then-”
“I’m sure.” Granddad took a long look at mum’s dejected face. “I’ll call you later if that’ll make you feel better.”
“Thanks dad.” Mum smiled and hugged him. As we walked to her car, I looked back to see Granddad looking at us.
“I’d have thought he’d be going up the wall,” I said when mum pulled away. “I remember just brushing against his car when I was little and him screaming at me.”
“Yes, well.” Mum coughed. “Honey, he’s old, and he cares too much about what people think.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t expect you to understand, but when your grandfather was younger, you simply didn’t make waves. You put on this perfect front no matter what was happening. Having the police come around, even if you were the victim of a crime, well, it just wasn’t the done thing.”
“So, he’s letting someone kill his dog and destroy his property because he doesn’t want the neighbours seeing he’s in trouble?”
“We don’t know that someone killed Rufus.” Mum’s tone suggested she didn’t believe what she was saying.
“Rufus wasn’t old, he wasn’t sick, some asshole poisoned him. You saw all that foam around his mouth.” I slumped back in the passenger seat.
“Or he ate something that he shouldn’t have,” Mum said.
“Same difference. It’s not like granddad grows hemlock or chocolate.” Mum let out a loud sigh. “You were on the phone to the police; you can’t pretend you don’t think someone’s got it in for granddad.”
“You spend too much time in stories. Television, books, video games — they all make life out to be more interesting than it really is.” I said nothing. This was mum’s default argument. Her fall back. If I ever had an opinion that went against her own, it was all television’s fault. It was pointless arguing at this point. This was mum saying she didn’t want to talk about it.
I went back to granddad the following weekend.
The roses were dead.
Not just dead, burned. The ground and grass around them were black. When I arrived, granddad was pulling up what they left of the burnt plants.
“Oh, Granddad.” I put my hand on his shoulder. “I’m so sorry.”
“No matter,” he grunted, like he hadn’t spent years pridefully fussing over the plants. “This batch was going bad anyway, more sickness and pests than actual plants.”
“What are you talking about? You won the-”
“I said they were going bad, anyway.” His shoulders slumped as I fell silent at his sharp tone. I turned away and pick up a shovel. I started digging out the plant next to granddad. He said nothing, and we worked quietly together.
“I know you don’t want to involve the authorities,” I whispered after a while. “But you shouldn’t worry about what people think. You’re a nice guy and some asshole is targeting you for this bullshit. Your neighbours would be behind you.” Granddad grunted but said nothing. “The police might help.”
“Police aint no help. A man always has to be his own justice.”
“You can’t deal with this on your own.” I stopped digging and caught my breath, wiping sweat from my head.
“You want me to go to the police?” Granddad also stopped digging. Standing up straight, he towered over me, despite his age. “With what, a story about a scratched car and some burnt up plants?”
“O.K.,” I said. Granddad frowned like he had expected me to argue. “You need evidence. We should get you some home security cameras. No police, nothing big or flashy, just some very discrete cameras. We’ll set them up all around the house.” Granddad stared at me for a long moment, his eyes sharp. I felt fresh sweat bead out across the back of my neck. Eventually, he sighed and dropped his gaze.
“This would make you and your mother stop worrying?” I nodded. “Fine.”
“I’ll get Brian to sort it all for you. We can use his friends and family discount.” I smiled; Granddad’s gaze sharpened.
“I’m no charity case.”
“Why pay more than you have to?” My phone was already in hand, texting Brian.
“And I don’t want the company logo flashing about!” Granddad snapped.
“Out of work hours, I’ll even get him to use my car, not his work van.” Granddad nodded slowly; his displeasure visible in the lines on his face.
We went back to work, pulling up the burnt roses. It took us well into the evening to finish the task. At Granddad’s insistence “a woman shouldn’t drive alone at night,” I agreed to stay the night and excused myself after dinner to the bathroom to soak my aching back. When I emerged, wrapped in grandma’s old terrycloth bathrobe, granddad had fallen asleep in front of the television. I smiled and headed into the kitchen to make some tea before bed.
I was rinsing out a cup at the sink when I saw someone in the garden. Tall and in shadow, a flashlight in hand. Without thinking, I dropped the cup. It clattered into the sink but didn’t break. I ran to the back door, pulling it open. I heard Granddad snort awake behind me as I ran out onto the grass.
“Hey!” I yelled.
But the garden was empty. The figure was gone.
“Amelia!” Granddad’s big hand closed on my shoulder, pulling me back.
“I saw someone. There was someone in the garden.”
“Come inside, your hairs soaking, you’ll catch your death.” Granddad pulled harder, and I turned, obeying and heading back into the house.
“We should call-” I started.
“No one,” Granddad snapped. “You saw nothing, just shadows in the trees.”
“He had a flashlight.” I jerked out from his hand on my shoulder. How could he be so blase? How could he not be worried? He turned to look out the kitchen window, staring out at the dark garden.
“That’s enough!” He was gripping the side of the sink, his knuckles white with strain. “You can’t have seen anyone; it was too dark. Go to bed.” I nodded and headed upstairs to the guest room.
The morning brought the sound of children laughing.
Pulling myself out of bed and back into grandma’s robe, I yawned all the way downstairs. The front door was open. Granddad was in the front garden with some of the neighbourhood children. In his arms, he held a puppy.
“Rachel’s dog had pups.” He smiled when he saw me watching. “I called her last night to see if any were still available.”
“Any idea what you’ll name him?”
“The fine young men here were helping me decide.” Granddad gestured to the small group of children currently playing with his new puppy. “At the moment, the choice is Frank, Dennis or Ultron.”
“Hmmm.” I pretended to think. “Ultron is a clear winner here, I think.” Granddad sighed.
“Well, good thing this house isn’t a democracy.”
“Spoilsport.” I pulled the robe tighter around myself. “I’m making tea. Do you want some?”
“I thought I’d do some bacon.”
“I’d love some, but I need to head home. I‘m on the lunch shift today.”
“Then tea would be nice.” Granddad went and picked up the puppy, much to the children’s disappointment, and followed me into the house.
Driving back home, I struggled with the idea that someone could hate my granddad. This 76-year-old man who adopted puppies and played with the local kids like they were his own. Something was going wrong somewhere that he was being targeted like this.
“Didn’t you used to be afraid of him when you were little?” Brian said as we watched Granddad head out on an evening walk with the puppy, now named Dennis, and several of the local kids who were still thrilled to have a new puppy to readily available.
We’d come over to install the new security system after getting its priority ordered much to granddads disapproval.
“Yeah, well, he’s not a small man even now. He was enormous, tall, broad shouldered, and he’d yell at me when I got out of line. Of course, I was scared.”
“You say that like it’s normal.” Brian started up the ladder, screwdriver in his teeth, camera in hand. “I was never afraid of my relatives.”
“Maybe you were braver than I was.” I handed him up screws one at a time as he started fixing the camera in place.
“Doubtful. I feared frogs.”
“What does it matter that I feared him when I was little? I highly doubt that’s the reason he’d being targeted now.” I glared at the back of Brian’s head.
“I’m just saying.” He wobbled on the ladder as he tightened a screw in place. “That you don’t know everything about him. He’s a secretive old guy. Maybe something happened a while ago.”
“You’re saying he must have done something to have someone do this to him?” I couldn’t keep the sharpness from my tone. “Victim blaming much.”
“I’m not saying he deserves this.” Brian turned to glance down at me. “I’m just saying… hell, I don’t know what I’m saying.”
“I know what you’re saying,” I said. “You’ve been watching too many movies where the kindly old man at the end of the road turns out to be an ex-Nazi.
“It was one film.” Brian came down the ladder. “And it was great. Now, where do you want the next one?”
We spent the next couple of hours putting up cameras and setting the system up on Granddad’s ancient computer. We also put the app on Brian’s and my phone, just as a backup, mind you, as I strongly suspected Granddad would never check the footage.
PART TWO COMING TOMORROW
Trigger Warnings: Domestic Violence, Animal death (mentioned only)
3 thoughts on “The Taint Rises Part One”
Intriguing! It’s interesting how trails and lines of thought are shared between the family’s generations.
Thank you, pt 2 will come out today 😊