My grandfather’s frail hands cradled “Jocko,” the wind-up toy he had kept since childhood. The macaque’s fur had fallen out in patches, and the paint was thin and stripped. Cracked cymbals set precariously in its toy fingers, ready to drop at any moment, and the once red boots it wore had faded to brown-orange.

Gripping the hospital bed’s railing, Grandpa grunted as he strained to shift to one side to face me, a great smile carving grooves in his face as he wound Jocko. The key turned with slow, systematized clicks, reminding me of a ticking clock. Gingerly, he set it on the glossy overbed table that had already been cleared of his lunch. With a nudge, springs and gears cranked. The fuzzy monkey clattered as it shuffled to the edge of the table, beating tin cymbals, until it jerked to a stop. His smile faded.

I reached for the toy.
He placed his trembling hand over mine.
“You don’t want me to wind it again?”

“I want you to remember how it fought against its rusted gears to make this short journey. Remember the sound of its tiny cymbals and its wild grin.”

“But it makes you so happy. Maybe we can let it have just one more run.” I pulled to escape his calloused grip to again try and take the toy, but he clasped my hand in both of his.

“Let it be.”
“We can wind it again.”
He shook his head solemnly, glancing once at the monitors that beeped ever slower around him.

“Grandpa, I wish we had more time.” Tears wet my cheeks.

“Don’t speak of death. It is such a heavy word. I’m not going to die.” He nodded to the toy macaque, another smile creasing his apple-crisp face and deepening laugh-lines. “Like old Jocko here, people just stop.” His eyes met mine. They were dilated but filled with peace. “And it takes effort to not wind them again.”

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Margarida Brei
Margarida Brei (@margarida-brei)
2 months ago

Welcome, welcome to Voice.Club Shannon. How poignant to compare life to a wind up toy!

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo (@lotchie-carmelo)
2 months ago

Hello, Shannon. Your first story is so powerful and poignant. I couldn’t help but burst into tears while reading. Well done. 

A warm welcome to voice club. I am hoping to read more stories from you.

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo (@lotchie-carmelo)
2 months ago
Reply to  Shannon Yukumi

You’re most welcome, Shannon.

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Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof (@christer-norrlof)
2 months ago

Welcome to The Club, Shannon! I love your first story! The relationship between the old man and his grandchild is beautifully told, with Jocko as their contact person. The symbolic parallel between Jocko and Grandpa, between life and death, between acting and stopping, is very well described and touching in its simplicity.

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary (@carrie-oleary)
2 months ago

Welcome to Voice.club, Shannon. I seem to have said that so many times with this competition. It’s lovely to read stories from so many new authors. This is a very bittersweet story, with the grandfather ready to let go, but his grandson wanting to hold on just a little longer. Again, at risk of repeating myself, it is always harder for those left behind.

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