Ian was sixteen when he buried me. He openly cried. I can’t remember him ever crying, other than as a baby.
At the end of the service, Solomon, his grandfather, ushered Ian to a lonely corner of the cemetery. Ironically, Sol would be buried at that spot.
He faced Ian. Without warning, Sol slapped the left side of Ian’s face so hard that Ian spun around like a top. I was stunned.
Ian gingerly touched his face. Sol, with his right hand, cradled Ian’s chin. “Ian…look at me,” he said firmly, yet quietly in his now-faint Russian accent. He was six-three and stood ramrod straight. “Did that hurt?”
“Yes, Grand-pop Sol.”
“So why didn’t you cry?”
“Because I’ve taken hits to the face in fights and never cried.”
“Then why did you cry in front of everyone?”
“Because I just buried my father, for Christ’s sake. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to cry.” The boy had no fear speaking his mind.
Sol gave a subdued smile. “Don’t ever do that again. Ever. Never let anyone know what you are really thinking or feeling, not even the people you believe you can trust. You never know when—not if—they will use it against you. If one hair on your head knows what you’re really thinking or feeling, pull it the fuck out. Keep your own counsel. Your father did. That’s why he died with a full head of hair.”
“Does that include you, Grand-pop? People I trust who will turn on me?”
Sol dropped the smile. “Trust only that people will do and say what’s in their best interest. Always do what’s in yours, Ian. People are unpredictable. All people.”
It wouldn’t have been my way of teaching Ian a lesson, but it was effective; and Sol was right.
L.D. Zane served seven years in the Navy, which included a combat tour in Vietnam on river boats, and five years aboard nuclear-powered, Fast Attack submarines. At 65, his life is quieter now. He lives in a small town in southeastern Pennsylvania, and is a member of The Bold Writers. His short stories have been published in, among others: Red Fez, Indiana Voice Journal, Remarkable Doorways Online Literary Magazine, The Writing Disorder, The Furious Gazelle, Slippery Elm, The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, Drunk Monkeys, and Pour Vida Zine. His website is: ldzaneauthor.com.