PALM HARBOR — Mikey Enfield called his grandpa on a blazing hot Monday.
Could he help with the yard sale? He loved spending days with his grandparents. And grandpa was of the same mind.
Jack Enfield picked up Mikey, and they hauled tables and boxes from Jack's warehouse. Jack, a former Marine who goes hard and heavy, didn't stop or drink water.
The guys went to Olga's restaurant. Mikey got the biscuit and gravy, and his grandpa got poached eggs.
Jack's face was white.
Back home, they settled at computers in different rooms. Jack tried to play mah-jongg, and Mikey raced monster trucks across a screen.
Jack was sweating.
He lumbered into his room and lay down. Time passed, and Mikey realized it was quiet. He remembered how people sweat when they're sick, how pale his grandpa looked over his eggs.
He trudged to Jack's room.
• • •
When Mikey was born eight years ago, Jack held him for hours. He was afraid to let him touch the ground.
"You understand he's special," Jack said. "Just a little bit."
Jack had adopted five foster children from rough lives. One of his adopted daughters, Jennifer, gave birth to Mikey.
Mikey was always different.
He had extreme highs and lows — one minute cuddly, the next screaming. When a bully harassed him or bumped him wrong, he'd hit, spout bad words, hide under tables.
"People that don't know him can set him off," Jack said.
He was astute and funny, but he didn't learn well. His speech was off. Until a year ago, he couldn't use scissors.
Teachers and doctors called it a learning disability, flash anger, behavioral problems. They put him in special classes at Lake St. George Elementary and gave him medicine to help with the manic episodes. He goes to therapy for speech and hand-eye coordination. Video games hold his focus.
When he gets scared, he gets serious.
Jack is 67, tattooed and bearded, but not scary. He makes a living cleaning after estate sales. His wife, Rene, works at a human resources firm and spoils Mikey, who lives with his mother but spends summer days with his grandparents.
Jack and Mikey are together a lot.
When Mikey spins tales about eating jalapeno soup or having 100 brothers, Jack listens. You telling stories? When Mikey asks for things, Jack leaves room for hope. Maybe later. You never know.
When Mikey slams the door and hides, Jack follows.
He sits on the bed and touches Mikey's back once, then twice, then three times until Mikey stops thrashing.
When it passes, Mikey pushes his nose into his grandpa's ear and whispers.
"You know what?" he says. "I love you."
• • •
Jack heard the sirens.
"Don't die, Papa," Mikey said. "They're coming."
Mikey had grabbed Jack's cell phone and called a lawyer referral number from a commercial he'd seen between Spider-Man and SpongeBob SquarePants, and 911. "Haul butt over here," he told the dispatcher, or at least that's how he remembers it.
Jack was stubborn.
"Michael, you better not have called an ambulance."
"No ambulance, Papa. Fire truck."
Jack went to the hospital that day, July 12. Doctors called it severe heat exhaustion and dehydration. If Jack had stayed in bed, he may have had a stroke.
Mikey came to visit. He bounded to his grandpa's hospital bed and climbed in, nearly pushing Jack out the other side. Jack wrapped an arm around Mikey.
"You saved me, buddy."
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8857.