Lies My Father Told Me  

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Chapter XVII

   My grandfather spoke to God. And God spoke to
my grandfather. But there were a few things that
God forgot to tell him.
   Again a Sunday morning. Slush in the courtyard.
I open the stable door. The sunlight and I squeeze in.
Ferdeleh is snorting and sneezing. Breathing. Grind-
ing his hooves into the straw on the stall floor.
   I fill the nose bag with oats and the pail with
water for Ferdeleh's breakfast. I notice that the sup-
ply of oats is small. We must buy some more to-

   "Grandpa is sick, so we won't be going out today,
but we'll go out next weekend for sure."
   I carry the pail and bag to Ferdeleh, who is cov-
ered with a blanket. I pet his nose, watching his nos-
trils. Condensation drips of liquid and mucus. Breath
of vapors.
   "I bet you Grandpa got sick because they're all so
mean and they tell such lies. We'll get a fine stable for
you, don't worry." I adjust the blanket. "I'll tell
Grandpa you need more oats tomorrow."
   I take in a lungful, a noseful of the beautiful full
odor of my horse.
   "You smell real good. Don't pay any attention to
what they say. You smell real good."
Uncle Benny is waiting in the kitchen. His coat
is open. Annie is distraught, holding back her tears.
Harry is somber, not worried like the others, but aware
of the seriousness of the moment
   The doctor comes out of Grandpa's room. "Its
pneumonia. Wear a mask when you go into the

   I enter the kitchen to hear Annie saying, "I'm send-
ing the boy to my brother's."
   "Yes, darling. Grandpa is very sick. It's better if
you go to Uncle Benny's ... for a week or so, until
Grandpa gets better."
   I'm puzzled and distressed by all the aspects of this
news. With an imploring look, I ask Mamma, "Why
do I have to go?"
   Hairy, very authoritative, answers for Annie. With
an order. "Because the doctor doesn't want you to go
into Grandpa's room."
   The doctor, mildly, taking the part of the rational,
explains. "It's better if you go to your uncle's, Davie.
Your mother has to take care of your grandfather
and she has enough on her hands with the new baby."
   But I still don't really understand. "I want to talk
to Grandpa."
   Harry, completely lacking emotion, repeats an or-
der. "You can't" .
   I pay no attention to him, but look to Annie and
the doctor. "But I have to talk to him."
   I am worried about Grandpa. Everything's tum-
bling in confusion. But also I must see him about
Ferdeleh. Ferdeleh's oats.

    Harry just harps. "The doctor says you can't."
   "Perhaps," says the doctor, "if he stands in the
   Immediately I move toward Grandpa's door, as the
doctor continues: "Don't get too close to him. You
might catch it."
   "I don't care. If he has it, I can have it too."
   "Just stand in the doorway." He turns to Annie.
"I'll drop in again tomorrow." He leaves.
   Annie hastens over to oversee my meeting. Re-
straining me at the doorway, she eases open the door
to Grandpa's room, and says to me softly, "Grand-
pa's very sick, so don't be surprised by the way he
   Grandpa lies in bed, his head propped on a pillow,
looking pale, thin, and tired.
   "Grandpa? Does it hurt?"
   Grandpa looks at me gently, and speaks, into the
silence of the moment, but inaudibly.
   "Can you talk louder. Grandpa? I can't hear you,
and they won't let me go into your room."
   "That's right," he mumbles. "Don't come too close,
   I take a step closer, in the stillness. "I told Fer-
deleh you were sick, and he understood. He wasn't
too disappointed, because I told him we'd be going
next Sunday, won't we, Grandpa?"
   He smiles and nods. "Yes . . . yes." Softly. He
   "Ferdeleh needs more oats. You'll have to buy him
some tomorrow."
   Annie nudges me on the shoulder. "Don't talk to

him any more. He's too weak to talk, darling; he
must sleep now."
   "If I go to Uncle Benny's, who will feed Ferdeleh?"
   "I'll feed him. Go with Uncle Benny now."
   I turn and look searchingly at her. "You prom-
   "I promise. I'll feed him." To Harry she says, "His
underwear and change of clothing... on his bed."
   Harry leaves the kitchen.
   I beg Mamma, "I want to come back Saturday, be-
cause we have to go on Sunday. Will you bring me
back on Saturday?"
   "Well see."
   "Good-bye Grandpa. I'm coming back on Satur-
day. Don't worry about Ferdeleh. Mamma promised
to feed him.'" And to Mamma, "And water, too."
   "And water, too," she answers.
   Harry has returned to the kitchen with a small bag
with my clothes. Benny takes my hand and starts to
lead me toward the door.
   "He needs a rubdown, at least twice a week."
   "Come," says Benny.
   "That's important."
   "Davie... ?" Grandpa calls faintly.
   I answer, "Yes, Grandpa?" Benny stops. I hurry
back to his door.
   Annie stops me at the doorway, holding me from
going too close.
   Grandpa is very faint. "Davie..."
   I wait They all wait
   Grandpa marshals himself. "It was a good idea to
put the manure on Mrs. Tannenbaum's stairs."
   I beam. This I fully understand.

Chapter XVIII