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Standing on the chair, I sank into its plush cushioning. The honey remained several feet out of reach and, sighing, I planted my foot onto the nearest shelf of the bookcase and boosted myself up, grabbing onto a higher shelf as I did. Grandpa was tall enough to help me but I was fat and he was old and the days of him lifting me were long gone.
Like Icarus I climbed. Trying not to look down as the ground got further away, my hands suddenly sweaty, my legs scraping the edges, calves burning as I braced toes against tomes I could not yet read. Focusing on the looming honey jar.
The bookcase wobbled and a fake Faberge egg rattled on one of the shelves.
I caught my breath. I stopped moving.
“Careful boy. Don’t vorry, you are almost at zeh top.”
Then I was.
I ascended the final shelf and the honey jar filled my vision. The honey inside had separated into a solid jeweled crust of thick crystals with a sloshy amber liquid on top. I could smell it. Grandma had never used the honey after putting it up here.
I grabbed it.
Nothing happened. I tugged, the bookcase swayed. The fake Faberge egg rattled. The honey jar remained glued to its spot. I yanked. The bookcase rocked, the egg tipped over. The jar tore loose.
I fell backwards and hit the top of the chair, which tipped over like a seesaw, pitching me across the room.
I landed on the glass coffee table where grandma usually sat and played solitaire while grandpa played chess in the other room. Her old, oily, ruffled cards were still laid out in the game she abandoned when she left earlier. She played games of chance while he played games of skill and each thought the lesser of the other for it.
The glass table shattered beneath me.
One thick pane of glass lying in the ledges of its frame, it lacked a center cross support or my back would have been broken.
I’d held onto the jar, and the honey spilled out, a liquid layer thin and runny like water but still grossly sticky like honey.
It soaked right through my shirt, coating my chest, flowing around my flab to my back and down my pants, pooling in the crack of my ass and in the hollow of my throat, smearing my cheeks and matting my hair.
Shards of broken glass stuck to me, cut me in innumerable tiny places, fragments were glued to the back of my neck, to the backs of my arms, in the creases of my folded elbows. I was a Christmas ornament.
A fleck of glass poked my jaw when I looked over at him. At least he looked shocked.
The glass mixed into the honey bonding my head to the carpet prevented me from nodding. “Call my mom.” I wiggled my legs trying to sit up but the honey cocoon held me fast.
Grandpa shuffled back into the kitchen and the portable phone beeped as he removed it from its cradle. He returned, coming into view over me, holding the phone in one hand and his steaming mug of tea in the other. He grasped a tablespoon with his pinky finger.
Wincing from his arthritis he knelt beside me, set down the phone and grabbed the base of the honey jar. The tendons in his loose, skinny arms tensed and knotted as he drove the spoon into the petrified honey remaining there. It crunched as he carved out a heaping spoonful. He smacked his lips, drinking. His eyelids drooped and a smile spread wide as he blissed out over that first sweet sip of honeyed tea.
Then he called my mom.
She came from work to get me, and after she arrived he made a big show of helping me, hosing me down with water to free up the shards and carefully taking off my shirt and pants. No major lacerations, no hospital trip, just a roadmap of fine scratches that disappeared from everywhere but my memory by the next week.
I never told anyone that little detail, about his spoonful of honey.
Because I can keep a secret.