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Last Meal

last mealHe arrived late to brunch. He was young, and well dressed. On the patio an orange awning shielded him from the sun. A table for four was set near a cobblestone wall. On the other side were the choppy bay, sailboat canvases and boat-goers slapped by stiff winds.

He approached the table. Two of the three sitting there, an older woman and man dressed in their Sunday best, stood to greet him. The older woman, his mother, wrapped her arms around his fitted shirt and smiled as though they hadn’t seen each other in a lifetime. He nodded as if they had seen each other last week. The older man, her beau, had a silver mane, yet his broad shoulders betrayed his age. They exchanged a brief glance and shook hands.

The last member at the table was a much older man. He did not welcome him, nor did it seem he knew he was there. Instead, he stared at the boats swaying in the coarse waters and tilted his head at a distant memory. A light touch on his shoulder brought him back.

“Abuelo,” the young man said.

“My man!” He exclaimed in a thick Spanish accent, forcing a show of excitement. His words were slurred through a half-eaten mouthful of eggs and ham.

His form was an unhealthy slender, and his face had lost most of its pigmentation. His mustache was frayed, his hands shook, and splotches trailed up his forehead and under his thinned hair. Still, his cracked lips curved into a grand smile, and they talked about their old chess matches, fishing trips never taken and whether they would have café con leche with dessert.

The meal ended too soon, and the young man helped his grandfather to the car. He hugged his mother, nodded at her beau, and looked hard at the elderly man sitting in the passenger seat.

“The meal is over?” asked the grandfather. He was surprised he was no longer at the table. The young man nodded.

“It was a great meal,” the grandfather said. His grandson agreed.

“The greatest thing about it was… the greatest thing,” the grandfather said, amused, not speaking to anyone at all.

The grandson hugged him, and gently closed the door. Soon, the engine tenderly roared, waves shook through the tinted windows, and the car faded into the distance of the long avenue and out of sight.

Published inVignette