Flash Fiction – 3rd Place, by Daniel Barrett

Adam drank relentlessly on Monday night. He’s been on a warpath lately, putting down as many bottles of the vintage wine he found in his late grandfather’s cellar. The death was a great loss, for his grandfather, whom Adam called “Poppa”, was more like a father than a grandfather to him.

Poppa was the operator of several rides at the local carnival. Growing up he would take Adam with him to work and let him pull the levers and push the buttons of all the rides, under his supervision, of course. He was a man who believed that trust is earned and not given, and Adam proved to be responsible enough to handle the tasks and chores of the carnival.

When Adam was sixteen his grandfather became very sick. He was diagnosed with lung cancer after about forty years of sucking down Camel non-filters, and it was a huge blow to Adam. He began doing work around Poppa’s house: vacuuming, cooking meals and doing the dishes, taking out the trash… those sorts of things. Poppa would sit in his easy chair, still smoking his Camels, and tell Adam not to worry about him so much and to go out and have some fun and be a kid. Adam constantly told Poppa that he would rather stay, that he wanted to be there spending time with him.

One day when Adam was cleaning up in the basement he found a door hidden behind a wall of old boxes. After an hour of moving them to clear a path for the door he finally had enough room to open it. His nerves were jumping under his skin in a way that made him feel electric. He took a deep breath and slowly pulled the latch.

The door led to a cellar that was filled with old bottles of wine. There were bordeauxs, merlots, cabernets, zinfandels, spritzers, and even champagne. Adam had never seen so much wine in one place. He stood there for about a minute and grabbed a bottle of merlot, circa 1945, and brought it upstairs to show his grandfather. They drank and talked about living and dying and had probably the best conversation they’ve ever had.

This went on for about six months. Adam and Poppa drank together every day, sometimes getting into little arguments, but still had great fun in bonding and getting to know each other through the influence of the wine.

Poppa finally passed one morning when Adam was tending the carnival. Adam came home to find Poppa in his chair, his shirt with a cigarette burn in it the size of a fifty cent piece. The funeral was shortly after and Adam began to drink the rest of the wine gluttonously from morning to night.

This past Monday was Adam’s most drunk day. He put down five bottles of the wine and went to the carnival at midnight to pay homage to Poppa. When he got there he passed out. He had a dream of Poppa telling him that he’s disgracing himself by drinking so much, and that he’ll never amount to anything if he continued. He came to, finally, and went home to shower and get warm.

It’s been three days since Monday and Adam has not touched the wine. He put in a good day of work at the carnival and decided to crack open a bottle of cabernet. He sat in Poppa’s chair and took a look around: this was his house now. This was the beginning of his new life. He sighed in comforting relief, missing his grandfather greatly, and smiled as he took another swig of his wine.

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