Author : George R. Shirer

“When I was a kid, we didn’t have to slog all day to get places,” said Grandpa Whiteman.

Johnny adjusted his pack and kept his eyes on the road. The blacktop was cracked and broken, and if you didn’t watch where you stepped you could trip and hurt yourself. If you were lucky, all you’d get were skinned knees and maybe some bruises. On the other hand, Johnny knew folks who’d broken ankles and worse from a bad fall.

“Momma would pull out the car and we’d be in Hatterstown like that.” Grandpa Whiteman snapped his fingers for emphasis. “I miss that.”

Johnny nodded. The straps on the pack were cutting into his shoulders. He stopped for a moment to adjust them.

“You okay, Johnny?”

“Fine, Grandpa. Just needed to shift things a bit.”

“Sorry, boy. I don’t mean to be a burden.”

Johnny glanced over his shoulder, at the big jar that held what was left of Grandpa Whiteman. It fit snugly inside the pack, the old man’s sense-organs poking over Johnny’s shoulder like a slimy, pink periscope.

Grandpa Whiteman was mostly nerves now, stuck in a shatterproof jar and hooked up to a voice box and a prosthetic limb. All in all, the old man probably weighed about twenty-five pounds.

“I think you’re putting on weight, grandpa.”

The old man laughed. His sense-organs reoriented themselves so he could peer into his grandson’s face. The prosthetic hand reached around and patted Johnny’s flesh and blood appendage.

“You’re a good boy, Johnny.”

“Thanks, grandpa.” Johnny took a breath and they walked the rest of the way home in companionable silence.

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