The Project Gutenberg eBook of Gramp

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Title: Gramp

Author: Charles V. De Vet

Release date: January 16, 2020 [eBook #61186]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at



By Charles V. De Vet

It's tough to see into minds when
you're only a child—and tougher
still when you see what scares you!

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Worlds of If Science Fiction, May 1962.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

"Why is Gramma making mad pictures at you?" I asked Gramp.

Gramp looked at me. "What pictures, Chum?"

"Pictures in her mind like you're lazy. And like she wanted to hurt you," I said.

Gramp's eyes got wide. He kept looking at me, and then he said, "Get your cap, Chum. We're gonna take a little walk."

Gramp didn't say anything until we walked all the way to the main road and past Mr. Watchorn's corn field. I walked behind him, counting the little round holes his wooden leg made in the gravel. Finally Gramp said, "Abracadabra."

That was our secret word. It meant that if I was playing one of our games, I was to stop for awhile. Gramp and I had lots of games we played. One of them was where we made believe. Sometimes we'd play that Gramp and I had been working all day, when we really just stayed in the shade telling stories. Then when we got home and Gramma asked us what we had done, we'd tell her about how hard we had worked.

"I really did see mad pictures in Gramma's mind," I said.

"Have you ever seen pictures in anybody's mind before?" Gramp asked.

"I always see them," I said. "Don't you?"

"No," Gramp said after a minute. "Other people can't either. You're probably the only little boy who can."

"Is that bad?"

"No," Gramp answered. "It's good. But remember how I told you that people don't like other people who are different? Well, even though seeing pictures like you do is a wonderful thing, other people won't like you if they know you can do it. So we'll just keep it a secret between us."

I was glad Gramp told me, because he always knows the best things to do. I'm his Chum. I love him better than anyone else in the whole world. Whenever the other kids tease me and call me Crazy Joe I go to Gramp and he tells me funny stories and makes me laugh.

I remember the first time he told me about people hating other people who are different.

"Why do the kids call me Crazy Joe and laugh at me?" I asked him.

"Well, you see," Gramp said slowly, "your Daddy worked for Uncle Sam in a big place where they make things that the government won't tell anybody about. Then your Daddy got sick from something in the big place. After a long time he went up to stay with God. Then God took Mommy too, when He gave you to her. And now you're our little boy, mine and Gramma's. And because you're a very special kind of little boy, the other children are jealous. So I wouldn't play with them any more if they tease you. Just don't let them see you're afraid of them. You'll always be Gramp's Little Joe."

I love Gramp very much....

We kept walking until we came to Fayette. We went into Carl Van Remortal's store. Gramp sat on a chair by the big iron stove and I sat on his knee on his good leg. The stove must be real old, because it's got 1926 on its door in big iron letters.

"Tell me the pictures you see in Mr. Van's mind," Gramp whispered in my ear, "but don't let him hear you."

"He's making pictures of the fishing boats coming in," I said. "In the pictures he's talking to Jack La Salle and giving him some money for his fish.... The pictures are getting all mixed up now. He's putting the fish in ice in boxes, but other pictures show him in church. Jack La Salle is in the church too, and Mr. Van's sister Margaret is dressed in a long white dress and standing alongside him."

"He's thinking that Jack La Salle will be marrying Margaret pretty soon," Gramp said. "What else is he thinking?"

"The pictures are coming so fast now that I can't name them all," I said.

Mr. Lawrence St. Ours came into the store, and Gramp told me to read what he was thinking. I looked inside his head.

"He's making pictures of himself driving a car, and buying bread, and bacon, and piling hay on his farm, and ..." I said, but then I had to stop. "All the pictures come so fast that I can't read them," I told Gramp. "Everybody makes blurry pictures like that most of the time."

"Instead of trying to tell me what the pictures are, see if you can understand what they mean," Gramp said.

I tried but it was awful hard and pretty soon I got tired and Gramp and I left the store and went back home.

The next morning Gramp and I went out in the barn and Gramp said, "Now let's see what we got here." He had me try to do a lot of things, like lifting something without touching it, and trying to make chickens run by making a picture of them doing that and putting it in their minds. But I couldn't do any of them.

After a while he said, "Let's go down to the store again."

We went to the store almost every day after that. Then sometimes we just walked around Fayette, and Gramp had me practice reading what the pictures in people's minds meant instead of just what they looked like. Sometimes I did it real good. Then Gramp would buy me some candy or ice cream.

One day we were following Mr. Mears and I was telling Gramp what I saw in Mr. Mears' mind when Mr. St. Ours drove by in his car. "Mr. Mears is making pictures about feeding meat to Mr. St. Ours's dog and the dog is crawling away and dying," I said to Gramp.

Gramp was real interested. He said, "Watch close and read everything you can about that." I did. After, Gramp seemed very happy. He bought me a big chocolate bar that time. Chocolate is my best kind of candy.

I read lots of things in other people's minds that made Gramp feel good too, and he bought me candy just about every day.

Gramp seemed to have money all the time now instead of having to ask Gramma for any. She wanted to know where he got all the money. But he just smiled with his right cheek like he does and wouldn't tell her. Most of the people in town didn't seem to like Gramp any more. They made mad pictures about him whenever we met them.

Sometimes when we were in the store Mrs. Van would come in and she would talk to me. She was awful nice. But she always had sad pictures in her mind and sometimes she would cough real hard and hold a handkerchief up in front of her mouth.

When she did that Mr. Van used to get sad too. In his pictures Mrs. Van would be dead and laying in a coffin and they would be burying her in a big hole in the ground. Mr. Van was nice too. He gave me crackers and cookies, or sometimes a big thin slice of cheese.

One night Gramp was holding me and buying some groceries and Mr. Van was putting them in a cardboard box, and he was thinking about going to the bank in Escanaba and cashing a check. And the man gave him a big handful of money.

I told Gramp, but then Mr. Van came close. I didn't say anymore, like Gramp had told me. Mr. Van was whistling now. He made pictures of giving the money to Mrs. Van. She was getting on a train and going to a place where it was sunny all the time, and her cough went away and she wasn't skinny any more. In his mind Mrs. Van was real pretty. She didn't have the long nose like she really has.

When we got in our car Gramp was excited. He asked me where Mr. Van had put the money he brought back from Escanaba.

He had bad pictures in his mind about taking Mr. Van's money and I didn't want to tell him. But he grabbed my arm so hard it hurt and I began to cry. Gramp never hurt me before.

"What are you crying for?" he asked me, cranky.

"I don't want you to take Mr. Van's money," I told him.

Gramp let go of my arm and didn't say anything for a while.

"Sometimes the pictures you see aren't true," he said. "You know that." He took out his blue handkerchief and made me blow my nose. "Like when you see pictures in Gramma's mind about her hurting me," he said. "She never does, you know. So the pictures aren't true. It's just what we call imagination."

"But your pictures are bad! They make me scared," I said.

"We all make bad pictures like that, but we don't mean them," Gramp said. "Remember how you said that you'd like to eat the whole apple pie last Sunday? You probably made pictures of doing that. But you never did, because you know that Gramma and me should have some of it too." I guess Gramp can explain just about everything.

So I told him where Mr. Van had hid the money under a box of brown sugar. Gramp smiled and started the car.

He let me steer while it was going slow. "Who's my Chum?" he asked.

"I am," I said, and I laughed real happy.

The next day when I got up Gramp was gone.

I went back of the barn and played. I got a bunch of tin cans and punched holes in them with a nail like Gramp showed me, and I made steps out of rocks and put a can on each step. I poured water in the top can. It ran through the holes from each can to the other all the way down the steps.

I heard our car come in the front yard.

I went around the barn, and Gramp was just going up the steps to the house. He had been to Fairport where the big store is, and he had bought a lot of things that he was carrying in his arms. At first I was glad because he had bought something that was for me too.

But then I saw some bad pictures mixed with the happy ones—of Gramp breaking a window in Mr. Van's store when it was dark and going in and taking something from underneath the brown sugar box.

"You told me you wouldn't take Mr. Van's money. And you did!" I said.

"Ssh," Gramp said. He put his packages on the porch and sat down and took me on his lap. He took a deep breath. "Remember what I told you about imagination, Chum?" he asked me. "So you know you're not supposed to believe all the pictures you see. Now you're Gramp's Chum. And I want you to promise me again not to tell anyone but me what you see, and I'll tell you if the pictures are real or not. Promise?"

I promised, and Gramp opened one of the packages. He took out two new pistols and a belt with double holsters to carry them in. He bent over and buckled them on me.

"You look just like Hoppy now," he said.

I gave him a big kiss, and ran back of the barn to shoot robbers.

In the afternoon Gramp was playing he was a bad Indian and trying to scalp me when a strange car drove in our yard.

Mr. Van and two men with badges got out.

Mr. Van was real mad. "We've come after the money, Bill," he said.

Gramp got white. He was scared, but he said, loud, "What the hell are you talking about?"

"You know what, Bill," Mr. Van said. "Someone saw you break into the store. It will go easier on you if you admit it."

"I told you I don't know what you're talking about," Gramp said. His eyes moved kind of quick. Then he noticed me and he walked over to me. "That's a fine way to talk in front of the boy," he said over his shoulder. He took my hand. "Come on, Chum. We're going in the house."

"Just a minute," the biggest policeman said. "We've got a few questions that we have to ask you."

Gramp made believe he was brushing some dirt from my pants. "Did anyone see me take the money, Chum?" he whispered to me.

"No," I said, even though I didn't understand exactly. "Mr. Van is just pretending he knows you took it but he doesn't."

"Good boy." Gramp patted me on the head. "Go into the house now."

He turned and walked back to the three men, pushing his wooden leg into the ground hard. I didn't go in the house, though.

"Now I've had just about enough of this," Gramp said, with a big frown on his face. "You can't bluff me, Van. Say what you got to say, and get off my property."

Mr. Van's shoulders seemed to sag and he got sad. He made the pictures in his mind of Mrs. Van being dead and being put in a big hole.

It made me so sorry I couldn't stand it, and I cried, "Tell him you got his money under the seat in our car! Please, Gramp! Give it back to him."

Nobody said anything, but everybody turned and looked at me.

They stood real still. I saw in Gramp's mind that I had been bad, bad. I ran to him and put my face in his coat and began to cry. I couldn't help it.

After a minute Gramp knelt on his good knee in front of me and took my cheeks in both his hands.

"I've let you down, Chum," he said. He wasn't mad any more.

He picked me up in his arms. "You needed me, Little Joe," he said. "You needed me." His eyes were all smudgy. He squeezed me so hard I couldn't breathe, almost.

Then he put me down and said, "Come on," to the two policemen. He walked away between them.


The pictures in his mind were awful. I could hardly bear to look at them.

The worst picture was—me.

I cried and cried.