“The first thing to do with a coconut, of course, is to get at it.” Rombauer, Joy of Cooking
Ted Day turned the ignition key of the old silver and black Winnebago, 32RQ, Chieftain to the right. The battery was strong. The worn and rusted engine sputtered and hesitated, but after several cranks, started. This ruined the first excuse that crossed Ted’s mind.
After the engine smoothed out, he climbed down out of the cab and faced the crustiest old man he would ever love. His Grandpa, Wild Bill Raines, was proudly smiling from the perch of his mechanized scooter.
“Like I said, she always starts.” Grandpa Raines pointed to the highway that flanked the north edge of Crossing Trails, Kansas.
“Take her to Colorado, California, the Rockies.” Like the advice came from personal experience, he added, “It’ll do you good to get the hell out of Crossing Trails.”
His voice softened. “Ted, you need to enjoy life. I can cover your office for a few weeks.”
Ted’s head tilted to the right, so Grandpa Raines got out ahead of his skepticism. “I ran that law office for sixty years. I’m betting I can cover it for another week or two.”
Ted couldn’t help appearing annoyed. “Grandpa, you can’t drive. Remember?”
“To hell with them! I’ll be dead and buried before any man in this County can take me to court.”
“Grandpa, this isn’t New York City. Crossing Trails only has two cops and you’re the only guy in town driving a 1982 Cadillac on a suspended license.” Ted moved his hands through the air like a fish swimming in the sea and added, “With a personalized license plate, Shark. What do you think? You’re going to take that case to the Supreme Court?”
“Logistics. That’s all it is. We’ll work it out.”
Grandpa Raines rapped his fingers on the chrome wheel guard of his scooter to distract Ted from his train of thought. “One day, you’ll be old, too. It happens faster than you think. When it does, you’ll look back and wonder if you lived your life right. Don’t wait until you’re an old fart to slow down and set your course straight.”
He pointed to the side of his cherished RV with his cane. “Being on the road allows you to clear your head and set your priorities.”
Ted had no interest in spending what little vacation time he could muster sequestered in a tin house plopped on four wheels. “Road trips sound good in theory, Grandpa, but in practice they’re not that fun. I don’t like to drive and I get carsick. The Interstates are a breeding ground for strange people and awful food.”
“Ted, you’re sounding wimpy. Just take the back roads and cook your own chow.”
Deciding that the argument would go nowhere, Ted capitulated. “Okay, Grandpa, I’ll think about it.”
“Do you realize that since you came to work for me five years ago, you’ve barely left the office?”
“Grandpa, I enjoy working. I don’t need any time off. Not now, when I’m trying to get established.”
Ted’s grandfather inched the scooter six inches closer, leaving Ted no escape route. He looked hard at his grandson. “I gave you my law practice. I didn’t sell it to you. Do you know why?”
Ted shrugged. “Because you’re generous?”
“Nope. I’m not that generous. I gave it to you because that’s what it’s worth. Nothing.”
Ted tried to straighten him out. “Grandpa, there are a lot of people in Crossing Trails that would line up to make the living we’ve made from that practice.”
“Sure, Ted, it’s a good practice. But the problem, as I see it, is that you’re not building much of a life to go with it. That’s why that little blond girl left you last year.”
Ted tried to track his point. “You mean, Lisa, my wife?”
Raines nodded his head, affirmatively.
This one still hurt.
He told his grandfather the same story he had been telling himself. “Lisa left me for Thor, Grandpa. He was tall, blond, handsome and rich. If he’d asked me, I’d have left, too.”
Wild Bill Raines pointed in the direction of his modest house, punctuated by the old, blue, Cadillac sedan that was ensconced to the extreme left side of the driveway like an overgrown juniper bush. “You need to find a woman, a better one this time, get married, start a family and be more involved in the community. If you’re not careful, you’re going to end up like me. A grumpy old man, left all alone. Is that what you want?”
“I could do worse.”
“I’m proud of you, Grandpa.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t be.” He looked in the direction of the cemetery where so many of his family members were laid to rest and his voice became distant. “The wind will sweep over my grave just like it sweeps over the rest. I’m not sure my life has made much of a difference, one way or another.”
Ted rested his hand on his grandfather’s bony shoulder. “Your life meant a lot to Grandma, Mom, and…” He had never said it before, but not because he didn’t mean it. “And, to me, too.”
The distance that separated Ted and his grandfather over the last few years collapsed for a few silent seconds. The wind rattled the drought-damaged leaves and pushed dust across the county highway.
Excerpted from Tantric Coconuts by Greg Kincaid. Copyright © 2014 by Greg Kincaid. Excerpted by permission of Crown Publishers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Congrats to Barbara S., Alison B., Maria O., Marc J., Noreen L., and 95 other members of the Read It Forward community! Their entries were selected at random to win a paperback copy of Tantric Coconuts by Greg Kincaid.
Make sure you’re subscribed at the top of this page. You’ll get an exclusive email from us every week with info on how to enter our members-only Read It First giveaways.