A short story by Kalisto Bancroft.
It was cold in my grandfather’s house. I felt it on the skin of my hands as I sat down at the dining table, cluttered with all his belongings. I had temporarily put the heating up for an hour or so, but there was still a strange chill around the old place. I started to gather together some of his things that my sister had left for me. She understood that I had been closer to him as a child, which I found rather touching and sentimental of her.
There was his watch, his precious Longine from the 1970s. It still solidly worked even 40 years on, its hands still ticking by without so much as a hiccup. There were his glasses, big round things with thick lenses. They always looked rather comical on the bridge of his long, protruding nose, as he would sit and read his daily newspaper, or write intelligently descriptive letters at his elongated ‘bureau’. And then there was his stunning letter opener, which I found rather a spectacular sight as a child. It had a large silver handle, with an exquisitely sharp blade. I remember I used to take it from his desk during his afternoon nap, and pretend it was a sword in his office. Of course I was caught once. I could never hide away for too long before my grandmother would come looking for me. I still remember the shock on her face when she saw me with it. After that it was kept locked away whenever I came to visit.
I looked up towards the window. It was cloudy and drizzling quietly with rain. All of a sudden the coldness inside the house seemed much more inviting…beside the window was my grandfather’s chair. A large, bulky thing made with black leather that had worn and scratched over the years. I recall he looked rather funny sat in it, as my grandfather was not a tall man. He was slightly short with a balding head that conveyed a sense of loving, mature wisdom in my eyes. It was saddening not to see him sat in it. The dementia just occurred so quickly, eating away his independence and intellect. In a way I was relieved that he had died. He was no longer suffering at the mercy of this ghastly disease.
I looked back at his possessions in front of me. I felt there was something missing. Something that was much a part of him as any of these things, that I needed some hold of. I got up from the table, and slowly paced over to the large wooden dresser in the hallway. On the left hand side of it was a small cupboard. My grandfather’s famous cigar cupboard. I turned the key and opened it. The smell of strong, cold tobacco swarmed my face, into my nostrils. I studied the collection. There were Montecristo, Manila Philippines, many cases of long, thick cigars that were seriously Churchill-esque. I took out a case and opened it. A bed of cigars lay there, patiently waiting… I picked one up, and ran it under my nose. The smell was so familiar and comforting, relaxing even, like he was still here somehow. I remember a time being sat on his lap when I was young, when he was given this extraordinary cigar wrapped in its own decorative case. He lit the cigar and smoked it, with me sat on his knee. I picked up the case and pretended it was a cigar, raising it to my lips and dipping it in the ashtray. I looked at him and saw he had a peculiar smile on his face, humoured at how I was pretending to be like him. Of course this never actually influenced me, but oh, how he loved his cigars! Seeing him sat at the dining table after a meal, with a large cigar between his fingers, and a small dispersed cloud of tobacco smoke escaping his lips, was such a familiar sight…
I took the box of cigars with me back to the table. I looked out of the window again. The rain had stopped, and the sun was glimmering through the clouds. ‘He has moved on’ I thought, ‘He has left and moved on…’.
Imagery by Adam Carey