FLASH Writing Challenge 100 – Day 2
Mara sees her grandfather’s ghost sitting in the empty chair. Or perhaps it was just a coincidence she gestures with her fingers the same heart shape he had just made.
In life his name was Harold.
Harold had had a wife, four children, and three grandchildren. An accountant who married his high school sweetheart. They had shared times, both good and bad. More good than bad he suspects. When he considers Kelly, his wife, it had always been a low-key, quiet, slow-burn, dependable thing that lived between them. Never cold, but sometimes he felt like he missed the pyrotechnics of an all-consuming, white-hot, ‘hot’ romantic love. But when he reviews the outcomes of all those, more cinematic, ‘hotter’ relationships, he concludes that they rarely lasted very long.
Harold always wanted a forever love. A reliable, dependable, even sturdy love that endured. It was how he loved and how he approached money. From the time in his twenties when he corrected course from a period of financial responsibility, he preferred the conservative places to put his money, having far more trust in the long-term process. The accretion of slow, tiny, yet reliable, gains over the volatile, explosive sirens that called for his money and his attention. But they were all flash. All show and no go. They might perform well for a period, but you had damn well better keep your eye on it and know when to get out.
Not that Harold was without faults. He had held desires. Chief among them was food! He always loved food! He was an emotional eater, and when things were going rough, he could be found thinking about food, sticking his head in the refrigerator despite having just finished dinner, snacking, etc. He could never get enough to eat, especially when things were rough. He was like a lost sailor stranded on a raft in the sea. An unquenchable thirst; he sees the water all around him, but he knows that he can never satisfy him. What’s worse, the salty water will not only not satisfy him, it will make him even thirstier. A hungry ghost.
Harold sees himself in his youngest granddaughter, Mara. She had just turned seven the week before Harold’s heart attack had ended his life. Mara was also an emotional eater. A very sensitive child, Mara figured out early on that she could self-medicate her feelings with food. With cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, and her favorite – by a wide margin, ice cream. Which flavor? Um, what do you got?! She loved them all. Ice creams, frozen yogurts, gelatos, she loved them all equally. The only one that she didn’t love was accursed in her eyes – the yucky poser ‘ice milk!’ Ugh! No thanks, she had said the one time her father, concerned by her weight gains, had suggested as an alternative.
Harold is always hungry now. While he had personally always preferred savory to sweet, he was never one to turn down ice cream either. He could eat ice cream straight from the container and that was viewed by many, he had learned, gauche, a sign of addiction perhaps.
Harold died one year ago today, a week past Mara’s birthday, and one day after Easter.
Easter had been his ‘Mara holiday.’ Harold loved all his grandkids and he liked to dedicate a holiday to each one. He would seek to create rituals involving each grandchild on their holiday. With Mara, it had always been Easter, maybe because she had been a spring baby? With Rachel, it was Independence day. With Billy, for reasons he can never recall, it had always been President’s Day. He had hoped that his four children would continue to bless him with more grandkids, he certainly had plenty of holidays left to fill: Labor and Memorial days, (he felt, but would never admit, should be for grandsons), Valentines, Halloween, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s day.
Christmas could never be assigned to a single child of course. That would be cruel to the others. At Christmas, Harold tried to spoil all his grandchildren equally.
But Harold would know no more grandchildren. His Monday morning heart attack saw to that. It would always just be the three: Mara, Rachel, and Billy.
Harold sits at the restaurant table with his daughter Grace, Gregg, and their eight-year-old daughter, Mara. They don’t see him of course. The three of them are enjoying their after-church Sunday dinner after today’s Easter service. Dinner has finished and now Mara is staring hungrily at her enormous Easter Sundae. A tradition she had begun with Harold.
Harold is staring at it as well. He wants to eat it. But, as a ghost, he is no longer capable of such acts. The hunger is still there and still packs quite a physical wallop despite his physical-being ending definitively after his ashes were scattered on his backyard gardens, the Friday after his death. If, as a ghost, Harold has zero need for food, why does he still want it so much?
He looks up and sees Mara. He’s ‘visited’ her multiple times since his death, but he feels like he never sees her. Mara has ‘grown’ quite a bit in the year since Harold left. He usually only visits his daughter and her family (or ‘haunts’ them perhaps he considers mirthlessly) during mealtimes. During which he seems to spend more time eyeing their meals longingly than considering them!
Mara looks up. It seems to Harold that she sees him. For just an instant. She smiles. A single tear rolls down her cheek. He can tell she’s already self-conscious about her weight. Harold makes the heart shape with his fingers that was the special ritual he shared with Mara. She either sees him or perhaps it’s a coincidence because she returns the heart shape gesture to the empty chair where her grandfather sits.