One thing you’ve always taught me, Grandfather, and that is that words are important. An educated person should be well versed in the English language and employ her words with careful precision.
Sitting here with you, I can’t help but agree. I was thinking of how the word wound has different definitions and pronunciations.
If someone is upset, one might say they are wound up.
Isn’t that right, Grandfather?
I see you’re in one of your contentious moods, staring at the ceiling, refusing to answer. Your hands cradle the New York Times – open, as always, to the daily crossword puzzle.
Ah, well… it doesn’t matter whether you answer or not.
We’ve spent many an evening this way, haven’t we? You propped up against your bed cushions, me nearby.
Forever at your service.
How many nights has sleep evaded you, forcing your restless brain to spend itself in the unraveling of word clues, always attempting to fill empty squares on a page.
Better you should fill your empty heart.
But it is our evening ritual, is it not?
So, too, is your cruelty. “Barbara! Don’t be obtuse, girl! What’s a seven-letter word for DULLARD?”
Then the accompanying cackle followed by the too familiar, stale joke: “B-A-R-B-A-R-A. Yes, precisely. Definition – dense, uncomprehending.”
My comprehension is greater than you might think.
Still, I smile. Nothing to get riled up about… wound up over…
An English professor, you’ve always been comfortable with words. The heart? That’s foreign territory for you, and not willingly visited – unless to prick or wound.
That brings us back to the word wound. Primary definition – to inflict injury.
How many times did you make Mother’s heart bleed? Your words – so precise! Icy projectiles rendered unerringly, always hitting their target. Irretrievably damaging a sensitive soul.
The coroner ruled it an accident.
We know better, don’t we, Grandfather? She didn’t fall down those stairs! She threw herself down them in order to escape your wounding words.
What’s a seven-letter word for ESCAPE, Grandfather? Come, sir, don’t be slow!
What’s that you said, Grandfather? Speak up. Your voice sounds odd… gurgling…
What? You don’t wish to complete the puzzle this evening? You’re tired, you say? You wish to retire early?
In the ten years since Mother’s death, I’ve watched your instincts slow. You’re like a clock – a grandfather clock! – slowly winding down…
You’ve wound down, Grandfather.
So much so, I no longer fear you or your wounding words.
Old age is its own wound, is it not? The slow bleed-out of all we once were…
Here, let me take the puzzle. I don’t think you’ll be finishing it tonight.
Grandfather! I can’t hear you… that gurgling, it’s making your words indistinct! Be precise! Speak up, old man!
Nothing? You’ve nothing to say?
I’ve something to say.
What’s a seven-letter word meaning FINIS…
Quickly now, Grandfather! Have you lost your gift for words?
Let me help you.
Word Count: 500
Author’s Note: This story is written in response to ThainInVain’s weekly flash fiction challenge. This week she asked that we open a book to page 45, close our eyes, point to a word and write about it. My finger ended up on the word ‘wound’ on page 45 of James Patterson’s book, ‘Alex Cross, Run.’ ThainInVain’s challenge can be found here.