From The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall:Secrets of Marienstadt
Titus sat back in his chair and stared at the framed photographs that covered the opposite wall. He had learned the names of most of the men in those pictures when he was so small his father had to stand him on a chair to see them.
“This is your Grampa Silas,” Ezra said. “He was Great-grandpa Jubal's middle son. He was the one who took over the construction company when Grampa Jubal retired. This is your Great-uncle Judah. He was a merchant marine who traveled all over the world and wrote a famous book. This is your Great-uncle Mathias.” He pointed to a handsome man with slim little mustache and a leather helmet standing next to a bi-plane. “He was one of the first barnstormers.” And he would tell young Titus about his great-uncle's spectacular aerial feats of derring-do.
All the Winter men had exciting stories, it seemed. Ezra himself had been an engineer during the Second World War who had built bridges in the south Pacific Islands under the most perilous of conditions. He had survived malaria, attacks by native islanders, and being shot twice. Sometimes Titus felt a little bit inadequate next to his brave and daring forefathers. So when Winter Construction was set to celebrate its 100th anniversary, Titus decided to spend some time researching the life of the company's founder, Grampa Jubal. He planned to write a book for the anniversary. What a bad idea that turned out to be.
“What do you want to waste your time doing that for?” Ezra said when Titus proposed the idea.
“Come on, Dad, all my life you've told me stories about Grampa Jubal. How he was born up in Michigan and was a fisherman on Lake Huron and how he worked in logging camps and on the railroad. Wouldn't it be interesting to know more about his life?”
Ezra shrugged. At just past eighty he was a burly, weather-beaten man with a face that was still handsome and a full head of shimmering, snow white hair. He lived by himself in the house he built when he first married Titus' mother and where they raised their five children. She had died following a long battle with cancer a few years back and now Ezra lived alone. He made regular visits to his children, most of whom were married and lived nearby. He kept himself busy with old friends like Tater Feldbauer. They had played baseball together as boys and now spent their afternoons driving logging trails and reminiscing about how much better things used to be.
“How are you going to find anything out?” he asked, twisting the top off a bottle of Straub's. “I don't remember much about him other than what you already know.”
“You said he always told a lot of stories. I bet you know a lot more than you think you do.”
“I don't remember anything in partic'lar that I haven't told you. My dad used to talk about Grampa telling how he worked in logging camps when he was young. He talked about how thick the forests were in the Upper Peninsula. You could ask my uncle Mathias what he remembers but he's so full of shit I wouldn't believe much of it. If you're going to do that, you better do it soon cause he's pushing a hundred and could kick the bucket at any minute.” He took a long swig of beer.
Titus smiled. He'd never quite gotten used to Ezra's colorful way of expressing himself but he'd learned to have a sense of humor about it. “Things are different now, Dad. Lots of towns have their birth records online and you can go to Ancestry.com and find out a lot of stuff.”
Ezra frowned. “What's all this dot com stuff? Do you really trust that?”
Titus laughed. “It's the internet, Dad. Maybe it's true and maybe it's not but wouldn't you like to know a little more about your own grandfather's life. Who his parents were and stuff like that?”
Ezra shrugged again. “Grampa said his father was a fisherman and a carpenter. So what?”
“Really? You never mentioned that.”
Ezra took another swallow of beer and thought about it. “It's not exactly a big deal. He didn't catch Moby Dick.”
“Well, I'd like to know more. Maybe we've got cousins in Michigan.”
Ezra snorted. “We've got more goddam cousins than we can count right here. How many cousins do you need?”
Thanks for reading!