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Quiet Haunts

Grampa Louvin’s house was like him. Both were weather-beaten and full of creaks. Fading memories–snapshots and brittle sheet music–hid in cupboards and behind the couch.

Spencer had only met Grampa Louvin twice before that summer. But in May, Spencer’s mom had sat on his bed. She told him they and Jeff, Spencer’s older brother, were flying down to stay with Grampa Louvin for awhile. She talked about the French Quarter, the Audubon Zoo, and everything else to see in New Orleans. Then, with her voice starting to shake, she’d explained that Grampa Louvin was sick and wouldn’t get better.

Spencer knew more than that. He didn’t spy, exactly, but if he was quiet, keeping his face hidden behind a book, adults forgot about him. They’d start talking between themselves and say things they wouldn’t have said straight to Spencer.

Years of drinking had scarred Grampa Louvin’s liver. It couldn’t clean toxins out of his body anymore. He was so full of poisons, they’d turned his eyes yellow. Spencer also knew Grampa Louvin had gone to City Park in April, even though it took him grim effort to get across the kitchen. He’d collapsed in the park, and a jogger called 911. Grampa Louvin spent two days in the hospital, but wouldn’t tell anybody why he’d gone to the park in the first place. That’s when Spencer’s mom decided to go look after him.

So far, Spencer’s mom had spent the summer talking to the Medicare people, running to the doctor’s office and pharmacy and grocery store. She’d been too busy to visit the zoo or any of the other places she’d talked about. Finally, she’d snapped at Spencer to stop asking when they could go.

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