Jack the Lion

"The easy thing to do would be to stand here and cry."

The man looked up from his little book, "Everyone keeps saying that he wouldn't want us crying, but how else do you show that you'll miss someone?" He closed the little book, "I was the last one to see him alive and the one to watch him die. When I saw him I was past hope, past lying to myself, and I knew he was not going to make it."

Two days and a haircut earlier, this man felt and looked like a boy. He watched the family gather at the old man's house. The nervous laughter that happens at times like this offended the boy. He understood it, but he wouldn't be a part of it. He sat by himself in his grandfather's chair. The old man was clean and never carried a scent, so the recliner still smelled like leather.

This would all be easy if the boy was a believer. He wouldn't have to let go. He would just have to wait to see his grand-dad again. He had hope, lots of it. The old man was a lion and this wouldn't be his last roar. Still, the boy wrote kind words in his little book. The same kind of book his grandfather kept in his shirt pocket.

Always have pen and paper.

It was one of the old man's rules; part of his way of life. He was a self-made man who started off his working life walking an hour to his job. Walking a little faster at night when his shift ended, his hand on his knife at all times.

The boy felt the knife in his pocket and felt proud of himself. The old man taught him a lot over the past few years. They weren't distant while the boy was growing up, but they didn't have what they have now. The old man saw that the boy was turning into a man. It was a slow change, but he was becoming a man.

God, why couldn't he believe? He had faith when he was young. He had faith through the death of his mother, through what people would call rougher times. Why couldn't he have it now? The boy couldn't think about this. He started to cry, but no one noticed because he never made a sound when he cried. It was just a few leaks around the eyes. He kept on with the kind words in the little book. He wished the words would come to him like magic even if he wished that he wouldn't have to use them.

He knew he wouldn't have to use them.

He couldn't decide if he was selfish or chicken shit for not going in to see the old man yet. He kept writing. He mouthed the words to himself, "The easy thing to do would be to stand here and cry. Everyone keeps saying that he wouldn't want us crying, but how else do you show that you'll miss someone?" He cried and kept writing.

The boy's words were stopped by his cousin's voice, "Jack. He wants to see you."

Jack walked into his grandparents' room and stopped lying to himself.

The old man nodded and said, "Well, I guess it's time for me to go then."

"I wish you didn't have to."

"I do too, son, but I have to."

"I know."

"Tell everyone I love them. Tell your grandmother she's my life. Keep her going to the doctor. She doesn't need to rush to see me."

"I will."

"I know you will. You think you're weak, but that's where your strength is."

The boy cried and made a sound.

"I'm damn proud of the man I met in you."

"A lot of that is you grand-dad."

"That's how I'll stay alive."

His grand-dad nodded off to sleep for a few last breaths. The boy could feel all the parts of the old man that would stay alive inside of him.

They weren't enough.

"I love you," said the man, no longer a boy.