#FictionFriday A Real Eye Opener

A Real Eye Opener

On the footrest, his grandpa’s feet were pointing up like black rabbit ears, so Bobby knew the faded, dull orange La-Z-Boy was fully reclined, even before he came fully around the corner. Approaching the living room, he slowed to a tiptoe. He wanted to give the old guy a little scare, something his grandpa loved to do to him—pay backs are a rare opportunity not to be squandered.
Grinning and slinking across the hardboards, he kicked a pop can, sending caramel-colored liquid spinning around the floor. The aluminum can came to a stop under the coffee table.
Confused and worried he was in trouble, he called off the surprise attack. “Grandpa, you dropped your pop!”
The man’s frail arm was extended like a hairy diving board, out over the armrest, which was faded down to the foam padding in a long oval shape.
The old man, staring at the TV that wasn’t even on, didn’t answer.
Bobby leaned closer to repeat himself. The man’s eyes were sunken deep into wrinkled skin, centered under nests of gray hair. His mouth was hanging open, but he wasn’t snoring. Bobby tried to rouse him. “Grandpa, wake up!”
He gently shook his shoulder and it didn’t feel right. Instead of being soft, the flesh was hard. The boy screamed.
Bobby spent the remainder of the afternoon huddled in a corner, behind a large table lamp watching the medics package his grandpa up and wheel him out of the house. He loved his grandpa very much and felt guilty for scaring him to death. He didn’t dare tell his mom and dad how he felt because he wasn’t sure what they would do if they discovered he was responsible.
By nightfall, he decided to hop on his bike and visit one of his friends.
*
Two days later, his mom announced that that is was time for the visitation. Bobby, being the grown up little 10-year-old man that he was, wore a black suit and navy blue tie, one tiny wrist adorned with his grandfather’s huge golden wristwatch.
When they entered the funeral home, two things struck Bobby: everyone was quiet and he felt sick to his stomach. A slender man in a charcoal suit smiled politely and motioned them to the front.
As they made their way up the isle, many people hugged his mom, offering their condolences. People Bobby didn’t know were pressing their warm bodies against him, telling him it would be okay and to be brave. The sympathy of distant relatives—strangers really—didn’t help.
Bobby had killed his grandpa, how would a hug help?
The space between the front row of chairs and the casket was like a massive canyon. A canyon filled with flowers that instead of being bright and happy, more closely resembled coiled vipers waiting to sink their poison in anyone that crossed the chasm.
However, the casket loomed just ten feet away and his grandpa was in their waiting for him.
His mom wanted him to say goodbye, but said he didn’t have to if he was uncomfortable.
Bobby didn’t want to so his dad found him a seat while his mom went up to pay her respects.
When she returned, her eyes were all red again and she was sobbing into his dad’s chest. She sniffled and hugged bobby after she was done.
“Mom, I think I want to say goodbye to grandpa.” He couldn’t believe he was changing his mind, but the feeling was overwhelming. He couldn’t imagine never seeing him again. How bad could it be?
His mom’s brother, a large round man with bushy red hair sitting next to them offered to escort him up to see his grandfather.
The many flowers were arranged like a tunnel, leading up to the casket. Bobby made his way up to the front, taking a deep breath as he ran his hand along the highly polished wood. Ivory satin, puffy like pillows, covered the inside of the open lid.
He stared at the soft fabric until he was ready to look down.
His shoulders sagged as relief washed over him. He didn’t look that bad. A nice gray suit and red tie, hand folded neatly over his stomach. The stubble from his checks was neatly shaved away; even the shaggy brows were trimmed.
His closed eyes made him look as if he were sleeping.
A tear ran down Bobby’s face. It was his grandpa for sure, but somehow, just the same, it wasn’t quite him. It was almost him. As he took a deep breath, the familiar fragrance of his grandpa’s aftershave and cologne drifted up from the bed.
“Why are his eyes closed, Uncle Tom?”
“It makes him look peaceful, don’t you think?”
Bobby shrugged.
“Besides,” his chubby uncle leaned in real close, whispering in his ear. “If you look into a dead person’s eyes, they can take you down with them!”
Bobby gasped and ran back to his mom as fast as he could. Upon hearing the news, his mom scowled at her brother and cuddled her son while cried.
“Is that true, mom?”
“Of course not, that’s just an old wives’ tale.” She stroked his hair. “Don’t listen to your uncle.”
But Bobby peaked out from under his mom’s arm, staring at the open casket. He wasn’t convinced and he didn’t know why. He was terrified, yet wanted to know for sure.
Bobby slipped away from his mother and mustered the courage to approach the casket. The boy stared at the eyelids.
“You there, grandpa?” he whispered, looking back at his parents. They were busy chatting with people he didn’t know.
He reached his tiny hand up to his grandpa’s eyes, his fingers trembling. He touched one eye and quickly pulled away. It was cold and hard. Glancing back again, but no one had still noticed his absence.
He fingered one eyelid and pushed upward on the skin, shriveling it a bit, but the eye remained closed. What am I doing up here?
Desperate to flee, but instead he found himself tugging on the eyelid. It would not open. He was about to give up when he heard a small pop. Heart thudding, he saw one edge had lifted slightly. There was a thick bead of something clear under the edge of the eye, reminding him of glue.
Gross.
Using two fingers, he peeled the eyelid back until it flipped open. One hazel eye was staring up at the ceiling. Bobby jumped back, knocking into some tall flowers on a tripod. He caught the greenery before it crashed to the ground.
Bobby leaned over the edge of the casket, staring at the single open eye. It was glazed over and cloudy, but he could tell it was his grandpa. He reached for the other eye, knowing it would be difficult to get the mortician’s adhesive unstuck.
He managed to peel it back much more easily this time. It rolled open slowly like opening a can of sardines.
“Hi, Grandpa!” He cried, looking down at his beloved friend.
The cadaver continued to gaze at the ceiling.
“Sorry if I scared you,” he sniffled.
The frozen eyes suddenly shifted down to met Bobby’s stare. He yelped, stumbling forward sending his hands onto his grandpa’s chest.
He tried to pull out of the casket but his efforts only seemed to drown him deeper into the coffin. Horrified, he watched the mouth rip open, snapping hidden black threads that tore the lips into worm-like ribbons.
Grandpa’s old wrinkled hands slithered around the boy’s throat and squeezed.
Bobby screamed but the fingers pressing into his neck cut off his cry.
He tried to wiggle out of the cushion box.
His grandpa’s grinning mouth stretched open and flashed before Bobby’s eyes, revealing huge fangs, as the casket lid fell closed with a muffled thud.

Erik Gustafson
Word count 1310

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