Vasant (Spring) 2021 Stories - Dennis Piszkiewicz


Navel Gazing
By Dennis Piszkiewicz


John Bright was on his back, arms at his sides, upper torso bare, showing the white hairs on the white skin of his chest. His eyelids were closed. He was at rest … until he felt the jolt of something hitting his chaise lounge, and he heard the shout, ”Hi, Grampa Jack.”


He woke from his nap at the side of the unoccupied pool, warmed by the afternoon sun. His alarm clock that afternoon was his grandson, known in the family as “Little Johnny”.


Jack put his lounger into the upright position and saw Little Johnny through his Ray-Bans. Then he asked, “Where are your mom and daddy?”


“They’re talking to a lady inside. Mom told me to go outside and play with you.”


Little Johnny’s mom and daddy, John Junior, were visiting John Bright Senior, aka Grampa Jack, at the Heritage Palms Senior Residences. John Junior had found it for his father as a retirement paradise where he could live out his senior years in relaxation by the pool, under the palms, and in the company of others of his generation. The rest of the residents were apparently inside the clubhouse playing cards, gossiping, and complaining about the food at the Palms. John Bright Senior was enjoying the sun and felt lucky to be alive.


This was the first time Little Johnny had visited Grampa Jack at his new home or remembered seeing him bare from the waist up; but for little Johnny, it was a sight to behold.


“Your belly button’s funny,”he said as he poked an unnatural lump on his Grampa’s abdomen. “What’s that?”


“That’s a scar.”


“A scar? Really? Wow!”


“Wanna see more? I got lots of scars.”


Little Johnny said, “Yeah,” and he hopped up to sit next to Jacks legs at the bottom end of the chaise lounge. His sneakers hung a few inches above the pool deck.


“Let me show you the first scar I ever got.” Grandpa Jack rolled down his trunks at the right-top side to show a faded ridge in his skin about the size ofhis little finger. “This one’s the oldest. It’s from where the doctor took out my appendix when I was a little kid, not much older than you.”


“What’s an app … .”


“An appendix,” Grampa Jack finished saying the word Little Johnny couldn’t. It was a little part down inside me. It gave me a bellyache that wouldn’t stop. That was so long ago I can’t remember what it was supposed to do, but after my doctor took it out, I haven’t missed it.


Little Johnny was more impressed by the scar that started at Grampa Jack’s lumpy bellybutton. He followed that scar with his fingerupward, across jack’s abdomen, and stopped just below his breastbone. The cotton-candy-pink line of the incision had pale crosshatches left by sutures. It made Jack’s bellylook a lot like the lacing of a football.


“How’d you get this one?”


“That’s where the doctors opened me up and took out that cancer. It was something growing that didn’t belong inside me, but I’m all OK now.”


Little Johnny smiled, happy that his Grampa Jack was OK.


“I’ve got a few more scars, newer ones.”Hepointed to a rusty-rose scratch in his skin, less than an inch long,under the center of his rib cage.“See it?A couple others are here and, here.”He pointed at two more ripples at the lower right of his abdomen.“The doctor made little holes to get inside and take out a little thing in there called a gall bladder.”


“Gall bwadder?”


“Gall bladder,” Jack corrected Little Johnny’s pronunciation. “Want to know what it does?”


Johnny said, “Yeah.”


“It gives you a different kind of belly ache, the worst you can imagine. Beyond that, I don’t know what it does.”


“The doctor opened you up a lot, didn’t he?”


“He has. I’ve been thinking that the next time heneeds to open me, I’ll have him put a zipper in my belly so that he can do it without having to cut me and give me more scars.”


“Is he gonna open you up again?”


“That’s what he told me. He said that it won’t be long before he has to open me up again. But he’s not gonna take out anything. He’s gonna put something in, something called a pacemaker.”


“What’s a potsmacker?”


“A pacemaker,”Jack corrected Little Johnny’s pronunciation again. “It’s a little clock that’ll help my heart keep ticking on time.” Jack pointer his index finger at the center of his chest and said. “Tick, tock, tick, tock.”


“And you’re gonna have him put a zipper in your belly when he does that?” Little Johnny’s eyes widened in awe.


“I don’t know exactly where he’s going to put it, but if he’s going to open me up, I’ll ask him to put in a zipper while he’s at it.”


“Wow,” Little Johnny said, and he thought, “How cool would that be to have a zipper in your belly? You could zip it open any time you want to see what’s going on inside. ”He couldn’t wait until he would be old enough to get his own belly zipper and maybe, if he’s lucky, he’d get one of those tick-tocking-potsmacker things, too


Dennis Piszkiewicz from US had a long career as a teacher and scientist. Along the way he began writing. He started with a textbook and followed it with a few more books on historical topics that grabbed his interest. Recently he has been writing short fiction


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