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the old man and his son

Yes, tonight has been a productive night, definitely. I managed to write another, quite personal poem (see previous post) and also managed to shit out another short story-ish thing, which — in accordance with the cliche that the loo is the best place to find inspiration — I found inspiration for while in the loo. I sat down at the toilet and just started some sleep-deprived rambling which felt suitable enough to be turned into one of my stories. I think I pretty much got the first two or three-ish paragraphs “written” right then and there.

I added a bit, probably forgot some stuff, but yeah. That’s loo-inspired material right there, ladies and gentlemen.

Felt good, taking a shit and coming up with a story. Better yet that it’s not one of my overdone love stories. Oh no. It’s… different.

//

The old man looked in my eyes and asked: “Do you know the meaning of life, son?”

I was taken aback; I had never heard him talk like that. As far as I could recall, the only words he ever had for me were cruel, vehement words, vociferations stained with the stench of alcohol, accompanied by my mother’s sobs in the background and vicious lashings from a leather belt. That was the father I knew . . . the father I had grown up with.

But now things were different. I was a grown man, and for the first time in my life I could see something resembling love in his eyes, a sort of respect and admiration for what I was, for what I had become. A man.

And he repeated the question, his voice noticeably straining under the effort.

“Do you, son?”

I looked at him squarely in the eyes. That gaze that I had feared so much when I was growing up now held no sway over me. I had moved on. I had grown up.

And it was with defiance that I said, slowly, so he could digest the words: “No. No I don’t.”

I saw the look in his eyes change from one of respect and admiration to one of weakened, but still undeniably intense scorn. And I knew right then and there that he hadn’t changed a bit inside.

“I knew you were just as useless as when you left home, snivelling and crying about how I, oh, ‘beat you’ and how I, oh, ‘mistreated you,’ you sorry excuse for a man! I knew it!”

He had managed to summon that characteristic rage of his for one final fling, and that impressed me for a moment. But I knew that, now, they were just words. Meaningless words. I knew that he no longer had the ability or the strength to act upon them. I almost pitied him. He looked like an old, frail dog, barking his final few barks as his life slowly came to an end.

I smiled. It all was over. I knew that the pain of seeing me standing over him and smiling hurt him more than anything had ever done in his nearly eighty years of existence. And I gained much pleasure from it.

He knew the game was up, and that fire in his eyes dissapeared, perhaps, for the last time. And then he forced a smile. A sad, laboured, fearful smile. It was painfully obvious that he was afraid of dying alone.

“Son, will you . . . stay with me? Just . . . this once . . . before I . . . “

His eyes welled up with tears and he looked at me pitifully, like a lost puppy begging for food. It was a pitiful sight, and yet, I felt as if that was what I should do. Be by his side as he took his last breaths.

I crouched down and grasped his old, wrinkled hands in mine. His eyes turned to me, and I looked at him and smiled.

“I can’t.”

I saw the life drain from his eyes, and the tears began to flow. His pupils darted across the room, confused, dazed, trying to make sense of what his ears had just heard.

“But . . . “

I smiled, set his hands back down on his chest and stood up. He spoke nothing, but his eyes continued to plead. But I had made my choice, and nothing was going to change my mind.

I stepped back, and his arms reached out to me. I wanted to stare at him, to look at him, but I pulled myself away. I turned around quickly and headed for the door, the old wooden floorboards creaking with my every step.

I reached for the doorknob and slowly opened the door, its old, rusted hinges squeaking loudly. I hesitated for a moment before stepping out slowly into the hallway.

As I closed the door behind me, I couldn’t help but take one last look at the old man within the room.

Our eyes met for one final time, and I could see, almost as if it was in slow-motion, a single tear fall from his cheek onto the dusty floorboards, leaving a small, damp circle.

He groaned, tried to say something that would draw me back inside the room; but nothing was going to work, and I had a feeling he knew it as well as I did.

And, as I pulled the door shut, the last thing I heard, over the squaking of hinges and the creaking of wood was an anguished wail. A blood-curdling, bone-chilling wail.

And I smiled as I turned and walked down the corridor.

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