Flash Fiction Friday: The Sins of the Father

I wasn’t at all comfortable with this week’s challenge from Chuck Wendig. You may have noticed there’s not a huge amount of conflict in my stories, and although I do go in for pitched battles now, most of my conflicts are resolved in other ways.  Says a lot about me, really!   So the Wheel of Conflict challenge, where your task was determined by a random number (spin of the wheel) was one where I nearly opted out.  But I give you my take on No 17 “A tragedy of one’s own making”.  It’s hardly original – I’m learning new jargon all the time in this game, and I think this is a trope.  It might be a meme.  But I think it’s 1002 words of a cliched situation seen in many, many soaps!  Apologies to my US friends for incorrect language choices and terminology. Not suitable for children.

The Sins of the Father

Robert Merritt Howard the Fourth stood in front of his father, hands behind his back, eyes down.  Friday evening in the Howard household saw ten-year-old Robert Jr giving his account of the week’s successes at school to his father.  Successes and failures.  Robert Jr was heavy on the successes and light on the failures.  Failures equalled ten strips of his father’s belt.  Successes reduced them. He hoped his major success would outweigh his failures.

Robert Sr was a sweaty, obese man.  He inherited this ritual from his father.  If it was good enough for him, it was good enough for his son.

“Mrs McKinley went off in Mr Devalera’s car? What of it?”

“Ted McKinley didn’t hand in his homework because his mom had taken it with her. Teacher didn’t ask why, she just went red.”

This sounded juicy.  Robert Sr liked the opportunities these dramas presented.  “Ok, son, what else happened?”

Robert Jr shifted from one foot to the other. “Bart Michaels finally handed over the money he owed me. Here it is. He got it from Charleen Simpkins who called him a sneakthief in front of everyone.”

Robert Sr chuckled, his chin wobbling out of synch with his belly.  His son watched the wobbles vibrate all the way to his father’s ears.  Had he done well enough this week?

“Grades!” barked his father.

“Art B, Math C, English A, Science D, History  A.”  Robert Jr hoped finishing on the A would mask the Science grade.

“That’s not good enough, Junior. History is for liberals, Science is important.  Great men make Science. I want straight As.  Math too.  Who’s your teacher in Math?”

“Mr Devalera.”

“The one that went off with Mrs McKinley?”

“Yes, sir.”

Robert Sr gazed at the ceiling while his son continued to study the pattern on the carpet.

“I’ll speak to your head teacher.  He needs replacing.  Now, Junior.  Assume the position….”

***

Judge Devalera compared the depositions of plaintiff and defendant.  He was trying to ignore the names that jumped out at him.  Names from the past.  Names that caused him so much anger and torment.  Names he could thank for pushing him out of education and into the law. He was a judge, and he was impartial. He brought the two counsels forward and had a brief chat with them.

The plaintiff’s attorney spoke to his client and urged him to accept the decision.  Devalera watched the movement of the slick 4XL tailored jacket more than he watched the man inside.  Such a trivial case to bring to court.  What did the defendant have to do to live in peace in his apartment?  He’d offered everything a sane man would to appease his bullying landlord.

“My client will not accept the apology, your honour.”

“Very well,” Devalera waved at the court aide and pronounced his verdict. “Case dismissed for lack of concrete evidence.  The plaintiff’s feelings may be hurt but no material, mental or emotional damage has occurred. The defendant’s situation is equal.  In view of the relative ability to pay,  the defendant will pay $10 in costs, and the plaintiff will pay the balance.  Case closed.”

Devalera stood up leaving the court officials to explain to the plaintiff, one Robert M Howard IV, that he had a bill coming to him for $4,990.  He guessed by the uproar some minutes later that Mr Howard wasn’t pleased.

He checked his watch as he hurried out of the building.  With luck, he’d get back to their apartment before Louise, his partner, left for her shift in the hospital.

***

“Nurse!  Nurse!”

Louise scurried down the corridor to the private room in which Robert M Howard the Third was enthroned in an oversize bed, chained by the drips, wires and tubes that sprouted from every orifice and nerve-ending.

“At last, I’ve been calling for hours.  I’ll report you. What’s your name?”

“Nurse McKinley, sir.  What seems to be the problem, sir?”

“This wire is too tight.  And my son is late.  Check up on him.  I can’t do it from here.”

Louise McKinley checked the wires and unwound one that Mr Howard had tangled in his telephone receiver. “Did you not call him, sir?” she asked, putting the receiver back on the cradle.

“Of course I have! I’m not senile.  He doesn’t answer!”

“Maybe he’s on his way, sir.”

“It’s after visiting hours.”

That’s not stopped you before, Louise thought to herself. “I’ll see what I can do, sir.”

She looked up the son’s number in the father’s notes, and dialled.  Two bullies she’d rather not know, that she thought she’d left behind when she drove away from her husband and her son so many years ago.  Yet she was bound up with them, her duty kept her there. There was no answer.  She looked at the notes, wondering what else she could do.  He’d be calling her all night if she couldn’t explain the son’s absence, and the way he called, the other patients would start complaining.

In a borrowed white coat, a large man bearing a strong resemblance to Mr Howard Senior slipped past the nurse while she was still studying the notes.  He went into Howard’s room, softly shutting the door behind him.

“Ah, doctor, I need better pain relief,” started old Mr Howard.

“I have the perfect pain relief for you, father,” and with one swift movement, Robert M Howard IV swung a large pillow over Mr Howard Sr’s nose and mouth, holding it down firmly with his arms and body, until the man’s feeble struggling had passed.

“That’ll stop you spending my inheritance on hospital bills, you bastard.”

He slipped out as quietly as he’d arrived.  Louise McKinley never saw him pass the room where another patient really needed care.

***

Robert M Howard IV considered suing the hospital for negligence in the matter of his father’s death.  Best not draw attention to the events of the evening, he thought.

English and History had proved the best foundations for his life.

(c) 2013 J M Pett

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5 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Friday: The Sins of the Father

  1. I sympathize about the conflict–I’m too soft-hearted and hate hurting my characters. My story this week really used the cue as a scenario rather than conflict (coming up in a few minutes now!)

    • Yes. It was hard finding a baddie in the first book – hence the fourth one! And now guinea pig Colman, (the basis for the baddie in the fifth book) has stopped biting me and turned into a darling, so I have to rehabilitate him at some stage in the future!

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