A Secret Grave 102 – Elephant in the Room


Mercer came home from a walk one day to find a strange man visiting his grandfather. This was not unusual. At ninety-five, Jorge Martinez de Lopez-Guerrero was kept in bed by the arthritis that crippled his body, but his mind was still sharp as a tack. Using the computer that had been set up on a provisional desk angled across his lap, he was able to continue to write poetry and criticism and to read voluminously. He had a string of visitors who came to pay homage late each afternoon between six and eight o’clock – friends seeking advice, writers and politicians wanting his opinion, students hoping for a good word, relatives looking to be remembered. Caroline’s job while she was there was to schedule guests and curtail their visits to no more than half an hour each, making sure her father had plenty of water, not too much schnapps, and that he didn’t smoke more than one cigarette during the whole evening. Mercer’s job was to rub his grandfather’s hands and feet.



Hard Times, Stephen et Rachel in the sick-room (Fred Walker)


On this particular day, Mercer entered his grandfather’s room to find him deep in conversation with a handsome silver-haired gentleman who looked very professorial in a tan corduroy jacket, blue jeans and horn rim glasses. “Oh Mercer, there you are,” Jorge said in his thin, quavering voice. “I’d like you to meet my distinguished colleague Sergio Hochman who teaches literature at the university. Sergio, this is my grandson, Mercer, who’s visiting from Texas.” As the two were shaking hands, Caroline arrived with a carafe of fresh water and a bowl of oranges.  She was wearing high heels that clicked on the tile floor and her black hair in a girlish ponytail looked particularly shiny. Around her throat were pearls that had belonged to her grandmother. Mercer could sense excitement in the way she held her head stiffly on her neck, averting her gaze from Mr. Hochman. Her hands shook as she poured water for her grandfather. She gave Hochman a glass of brandy without daring to look at him and sat down on the other side of the bed, next to Mercer who’d just taken his grandfather’s fluffy white blue-eyed cat in his lap. For a few moments conversation centered on the cat whose name was Luna. Then Hochman asked Caroline if she was feeling better – she’d had a cold recently. “Oh yes,” Caroline said with a deep blush. She bit down on her lip. “Did you happen to find the book I suggested?” Hochman asked.


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A conversation ensued in a Spanish too rapid for Mercer to follow. He noticed the excited flash of Caroline’s eyes and the way Hochman’s gaze lingered on her breasts and throat from behind his glasses as they spoke. He must have been in his early sixties and he wore a thick gold wedding band on his left hand. When he said goodbye a few minutes later, he bent his craggy, handsome face over Caroline’s own wedding-banded hand and kissed it in a way that made Mercer feel sick.


To be continued…


Cover photo ~ http://claudeelkhal.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-elephant-in-room.html


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