Author: R. J. Erbacher

I’m writing this down because at some point there are going to be questions and I want to keep the facts straight. And no computer, don’t want anybody catching wind of this.

About three weeks ago I got a call that my grandparents had died. Not at the same time but pretty close. Seems my grandfather turned bedridden sick, then died some months ago, the autopsy people are not quite sure when. My grandmother must have been tending to him until he went, and then just decided to sit down on a chair in their bedroom and waited to die as well. A city fellow went out there to collect some past due payments and found the two corpses, if they could still be called that. Not much left after lying there decaying for months.

They lived in Grady, New Mexico, and the place needed to be cleared out before they could sell the property. Well my dad’s got Alzheimer’s and his brother lives over in Europe, so the task fell to me. So, I rented me a truck and took a nine-hour road trip from Austin, Texas to their house.

On the way there I thought about them and the old place that we kids used to call the Weed Ranch. Not what you think, not marijuana. Just that nothing seemed to grow there except weeds out in the middle of nowhere. And we used to call grandfather the ‘Pieman.’ Not pi, even though he was always talking about vectors and nuclides and the like; worked for Experimatics, some government facility out in the desert. But pie, because he loved him a nice piece of grandma’s fruit pies with a mountainous dollop of whipped cream on top. And grandma baked him lots of pies.

When I got there the house smelled awful, I guess you can’t clear that kind of smell out no-how. It was dusk but thankfully the electricity was still on. I brought in a couple of cartons, figured on throwing in some collectibles for the family, stuff that looked valuable. The rest of the crap I’d cram into the truck and sell to a thrift store somewhere. Walking around the place brought back a bunch of great memories. Nights we played cards at the dining table. Birthday parties we had there. Even the scary stories that my grandfather would tell us kids after dark about men changing into monsters.

I came across the basement door, still with the big padlock on it. I remember my grandfather saying that we couldn’t go down there because it was his la-bore-a-tor-ree, pronouncing it with all five syllables. Well, that renewed a curiosity in me that I’d had since I was a kid but completely forgotten about. I couldn’t find a key anywhere so I got a hatchet from the barn and chopped it free.

It was pretty much a letdown, no Frankenstein machines or nothing. Just a bunch of small chemical tables full of empty tubes and bottles, lots of written on notepads and cobwebs. There was an old-fashioned fridge with a pull-down latch. I wondered if anything in there could possibly still be good, maybe some beer. Inside, it was filled with old Cool-Whip tubs, the lids labeled with marker. A whole lot of them had a big X, five were marked NG and one said ‘STUFF.’ I took a chance on that one and opened it. It looked good, looked like regular Cool-Whip so, what the hell, I took a finger taste. It was delicious…but apparently not what I thought it was.

There have been changes.