beneath a southern skye


“Come sit with your great granddad a spell, will you, girlie?”

The man, just a couple of years shy of ninety, had been slowing down as of late. The room he now occupied on the main floor of Jack and Meara’s house was filled with framed photographs and other memorabilia of a long life well-spent. The aroma of tart cherry and licorice scented pipe smoke clung to the man’s possessions like lingering ghosts. Guthrie had spent quite a lot of time with Jolly over the past twenty years, and it was clear to her that something was weighing heavily on his mind.

“You’ll be needin’ a job this summer, I suspect. What if you helped me out here?”

“I’ll be happy to come hang out with you, but I’m not interested in getting paid for it,” Guthrie chided. “You’ll be getting the honor of my company complete with sarcasm, a questionable sense of humor and tasteless jokes free of charge.”

“Ah,” Jolly chuckled half-heartedly, “while worth their weight in gold, those aren’t the things I’m offering to pay you for.”

One of Guthrie’s eyebrows hitched in curiosity.

“Remember how Cheney and your folks took off to Scotland a decade or so ago? Well, the girls learned about their daddy and the history he made there across the pond. There’s a lot that happened once that scoundrel got himself here to the States and married your grandmother that they haven’t heard about.”

“What is it you want me to do?”

“Well, I’m on my way out. Don’t know when, but I’m the only one who knows our family’s history, and I’d better offload it while I still have the chance. I wanna tell you the story so you can type it all up into your computer. Make it all nice and neat, make sure all the words are spelled the right way and keep the punctuation straight. Then I’d like for you to share the whole thing with the girls once I’m gone. I’ve got conditions, though. Two of ‘em, and they ain’t negotiable.”

Guthrie took a moment to process the old man’s request. “I’m listening.”

“The first one’s easy. You gotta keep our little project a secret.”

“And the second?”

Jolly sighed. “I love this family. I’m proud of it. I ain’t interested in tarnishin’ the Gannon name, but the truth can be downright ugly. Forgiveness, girlie. That’s what I’m askin’ for, ‘cause I’m not at all sure I’ll be able to leave this world with the thought that you might think less of me once you hear what I have to say.”