Family Tradition

A short story.

#

URGENT – FINAL DEMAND, the envelope in Adam’s hand yelled. He was sat next to his wife, Emma, who lay facing the ceiling, silent and still, in her hospital bed. He’d been asking her what to do. Which dead end he should try next. But to have gotten an answer out of Emma, Adam would have needed the powers of telepathy. He would have needed a gracious fracture in the natural order of things and there was no way that was going to happen. Nothing like that ever does when you really need it.

Nurse Shirley Foss drew back the cubicle’s curtain and walked in. Adam and Shirley didn’t look much different in age, but Adam felt much younger in her presence. It was her mature demeanour that did it. Professional and upright; neat and tidy; strangely antiquated in attitude. More like someone from his parents’ generation than his own. Adam had always found employment that didn’t care about his appearance so saw no reason to change out of the late-nighties slacker look he had perfected in his teenage years. He gladly rejected this aspect of growing up.

“It’s the third letter this week, Shirley,” Adam said, waving the envelope.

“I’m sorry to hear that, Mr Kelehan,” Shirley said.

“I can hardly afford the basics anymore, let alone pay what these guys are asking. This place is costing me a small fortune. I’ve got nothing left afterwards. Less than nothing.”

“You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I’ve heard your story working this ward. Not that familiarity makes it acceptable. Oh Lord, no. In fact, it makes it worse every time I hear it. A whole lot worse. I could talk to you for hours and hours about how broken our system is. It’s just awful. Truly awful.”

“Maybe you should run for president.”

“Well, maybe I should.”

“You wouldn’t let my situation come about. You wouldn’t let people struggle with just trying to stay alive, would you?”

“I most certainly would not.”

Shirley walked over to beside Emma’s bed and checked her drip.

“I’ve got to get more tests done for Emma. I’ve tried the bank, but they’re not going to give me a dime more on credit.”

“That’s terrible. You’d think they’d do something for you, given your situation. There’s no charity in this world anymore.”

“So, I’ve got to waste a rare afternoon off work seeing Dad. I’ve got to plead with him at lunch today. Try and get him to help us out. It’s only the second time I’ve seen him since Emma got ill, so you never know. But I’m not expecting much. I’d probably have more luck panhandling than with that miserly bastard.”

“Do you have to cuss like that?”

“Sorry, Shirley. It’s just…”

“It’s OK. I know you’re stressed.”

Adam sighed, knowing what was coming next, as Nurse Foss noted something on Emma’s chart.

“I hate to have to say this, but visiting time is over already,” Shirley said.

“I know, I know. I’m going. Thanks for the extra ten minutes as always.”

“It’s the least I can do. That, and keep you in my prayers every single night.”

#

Adam travelled to his father’s house by bicycle. As always, he’d been offered a driver to collect him from the train station, but Adam enjoyed leaving his toxic green, sticker-covered BMX chained to the railings. He liked letting the wealthy neighbourhood know what William H. Kelehan’s thirty-six-year-old son thought of the aspirations they held for their children. Sadly, though, Adam knew it was unlikely anyone noticed, let alone cared. His was a naïve, out-of-date, small-town rebellion. Times had changed. Most of the parents on the street were probably Adam’s age. Probably younger. With more piercings. More tattoos. Today’s fashion being yesterday’s taboo and all that. But his father was different. William was plenty old-fashioned enough to get annoyed by something as trivial as his son’s appearance. Good job too. Pissing off his father was one of the few small mercies Adam had left in his life.

Adam’s dad was loaded. One of those stand-on-your-own-two-feetself-made-motherfucker types. In William’s case, however, extolling the virtues of self-reliance was a flimsy cover story. A token validation for his cruelty. Which is why Adam was expected to continue fending for himself when sickness struck Emma down and shattered his world. His waking life became an expanse of nonstop labour. After finishing at the Spotlight Laundromat, Adam would race across town for his late shift at Del’s Diner. Day in, day out he did this. Worked every hour his body could take. But it still wasn’t enough. Nowhere near enough.

Adam and Emma hadn’t wanted for much. They were happy on what the two of them made before Emma collapsed into a coma four months earlier. The specialist suspected a stroke, something congenital because of her age. But no, Dr Monahan didn’t have a clue what happened to Emma, or how to wake her. And to find out took money. Lots of it.

At his father’s gate Adam typed the entrance code sent to him by text message. A code Adam knew would be changed as soon as he left. Ms Powell, William’s assistant, met Adam at the door and led him up the luxurious wooden staircase. It’s baroque balustrades and deep red carpet runner led directly to his father’s office. Displaying functionality rather than opulence, this room contrasted with the entrance hall. Manila folders and box files filled the shelves rather than heavy legal tomes. Monochrome photographs of tedious architecture bedecked the walls. And not one patch of dog-eared green leather infected the predictable, showroom modernity. Its design was clearly drawn by a hand other than Adam’s father’s.

“Come in, Adam. Take a seat,” William said, waving at the contemporary fabric couch without looking up. Adam’s father looked frail; the whitening of his hair now complete. Even his glasses looked big on him. Had his head shrunk?  

The coffee table was replete with a hardening selection of open sandwiches, cold cuts and cheeses. Altogether far too much food.

“Ms Powell called in for Rizzo’s, I hope that’s ok for you.”

“I’m fine with a Subway, you know that.”

They ate between snippets of uncomfortable small talk, picking at little bit’s here and there, until Adam brought up the money he needed for Emma.

“Haven’t you put anything away for this sort of thing? I’ve always told you it pays to be prepared,” William said.

“It’s all gone, Dad. I’m trying my hardest, damn it. I work double shifts every day. I bet it’s a lot harder than you’ve ever worked.”

“Well, you should have put that effort into your education when you were younger. It’s not like I didn’t give you the opportunity. Then, you might have got a job with healthcare.”

“Jesus, it’s the same every time I see you. Show some compassion. Look, I need money to try different treatments, new tests. Otherwise it might be game over for Emma. She might be dying, Dad. She might never wake up.”

“We are all dying, Adam. Can’t you mither Emma’s parents for money? It’s her that’s ill after all.”

“Dad. They’re dead. You were at both their funerals, for fuck’s sake.”

“Was I? Well then, there’ll be an inheritance. Use that.”

“There was no inheritance. Not really. The little that Emma’s parents left went long ago. They never had much. You know that. That’s why you never liked her, isn’t it? She didn’t meet your expectations.”

“I’m tired of all this, Adam. I think it’s time you left.”

“At least you could speak to your contacts at the hospital for me.”

“Please, I’ve a lot to do. Let me see you out.”

Standing up was an effort for William. He steadied himself on the desk before moving forward, slightly hunched and limping. Old age didn’t suit him.

“Are you OK? Do you need a hand?” Adam said.

“Don’t be stupid. I just pulled something yesterday.”

Adam waited for his father so they could walk together. At the top of the stairs, Adam put his hand on William’s shoulder, enjoying the physical superiority over him.

“Don’t even think about pushing me down the stairs. You wouldn’t get a cent.”

“The thought hadn’t crossed my mind.”

“I’d rather the stray cat that hangs around the bins got it all rather than you.”

Adam squeezed William’s shoulder, wondering whether he should push him anyway. The brief glimpse at what the loss of control looked like in the old bastard’s eyes would be worth it.

“Well thanks for nothing, as usual. See you around.”

“Not likely.”

#

When he left his father’s house after lunch, Adam clocked a vacant lot across the street. He knew such prime real-estate wouldn’t be there long, so early the following week he hid in its garden. Staring from behind a hedge, like a peeping tom in a bad eighties comedy, he waited until William’s driver arrived in a gloss-black Mercedes. A mean grin smeared across Adam’s face as his father hobbled with a cane towards the car.

He watched William drive out of sight before emerging from the foliage to approach his father’s house. If his efforts to avert suspicion – the cheap suit, languorous gait and nonchalant whistle – weren’t enough to draw attention, fumbling on a ski mask and dashing the last steps to the gate sure were. But he got lucky. Nothing but sprinklers and squirrels stirred on the quiet street.

Jumping the fence didn’t appeal, so Adam typed in the most recent code, vaguely hoping his father had trusted him with this knowledge. The gate beeped three times and swung open. “He’s losing his damn mind,” Adam said, shaking his head while stepping onto the driveway. The code was the same for the front door, which also let him in without resistance. No alarm either. He’d been given the proverbial free ride.

Adam’s destination was his mother’s old bedroom. Her death fifteen years ago brought a grief that father and son never managed to share. Adam was travelling in the Amazon rainforest at the time she got ill and her sickness took her quicker than he could get back. Delayed communications, unreliable transport and terrible weather had held him back nearly a fortnight. He was told it was for the best that he hadn’t seen her. She hadn’t been lucid and her passing was traumatic. An infection had rotted her body like it was decaying fruit.

William, with an unbecoming sentimentality, kept his late wife’s room untouched. A shrine only the cleaner visited. It saddened Adam to go into this room, bright with the sheen of satin and picket-fence furniture. She had recreated, with unnerving precision, her bedroom from their old family home. He could still smell the mixture of her fragrances among the ever-growing must of absence. Adam opened the drawer of her dressing table, remembering the times, growing up, when he would watch his mother put on her best jewellery, always from this drawer. She would turn, radiant with affection, to ask Adam, “So, how do I look?” when she knew she looked nothing less than stunning. A celebrity, a…

Adam shook his head. This was not the time for soft-focus, nostalgic bullshit. He was here for a reason.

It was all still there. Neatly arranged bracelets, rings, necklaces and brooches. To pawn his mother’s jewellery didn’t come lightly to Adam, but he didn’t have a choice. He tried to imagine her warm hands on both his cheeks as he scooped the jewellery into his rucksack, hear her British accent telling him not to worry, to take it all.

Adam left his mother’s room with as much as he could without any loss being visible. Outside his father’s study, he paused to consider looting the Emperor’s chambers. But, despite the satisfaction it would bring him, he passed on the idea, suspecting the room contained nothing worth stealing. Everything would be tied up in bonds and assets. Or wherever it was people like William buried their gold. Maybe he would find evidence of wrongdoing, get the IRS onto him. He pictured his father’s face again – raging with the loss of control, hands cuffed behind his back. It was a face Adam longed to see.

From outside came three electric beeps, the whinny of the outer gate’s hinges and the crunch of tyre upon gravel.

“Fuck.”

Adam dashed to the window of William’s study and peaked down at his father’s car driving up to the front door. Adam couldn’t get past now. No chance. The doorway to the study was in clear view of the front door and the stairs up.

The driver opened the passenger door for William and helped him out, hand on elbow.

“Sorry for wasting your time, Ted. It was a false alarm after all,” William said.

“The man who writes my cheques doesn’t have to apologise. Can I help you to your door, sir?”

“No, no. Don’t be silly. I’ll be fine.”

William hobbled to the front door trying to shoo his driver away with a wave of his hand, but Ted waited until William was safely inside before driving off. Three more beeps and the gate closed.

Adam put his back to the wall beside the study door and listened. Clomp, clack went foot and cane towards the coat stand. Stay put, kept quiet, Adam thought. Perhaps he could sneak out when William was out of the way. Thump, creak went foot and cane, now climbing the stairs.

“I know you’re there, Adam. You left your mother’s door open. You never were very observant. And your deodorant stinks like a teenager’s bedroom. It’s unmistakeably you.”

Adam stepped out into the doorway of the study. What a sight he looked in his cheap navy suit and ski mask, his rucksack jangling loosely on both shoulders.

 “Is this what you’ve resorted too? Petty theft. You should be glad I’m not calling the police. But no, it would only hurt my reputation to have a common criminal as a son. That you’re clearly a down and out is bad enough.”

Adam tried a thick Brooklyn accent in an attempt to hide his identity.

“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, old man. I’m only here for your stuff, so stay out of my way and you won’t get hurt.”

“Come off it, Adam. You didn’t think that would fool me, did you?”

William paused on the last step and chuckled to himself.

“You think I can’t recognise someone as pathetic and desperate as my own son. You know, sometimes I wonder if your mother had an affair, that you’re the product of a different man and his inferior seed.”

Adam strode forward and grabbed his father by the cream lapels of his jacket as he reached the top of the stairs. He would get that look of fear, of hopelessness, from his father. He would watch him cower and plead. Beg for mercy.

But he didn’t get any of this. His father looked him straight in the eye, dropped his cane, and said:

“Do it.”

And he did. Adam let go of his father’s jacket and pushed him hard on the chest. William turned as he went, trying his best to face his fall and control his impact. But, unable to make it all the way round, the right side of William’s torso landed first, hitting hard against the edge of a step. His body curled up like a dead bug as it tumbled, with a muffled rhythm on the carpeted treads, all the way to the bottom.

Adam looked down at his father’s motionless body. He hesitated, waiting for a surge of emotion. Panic, fear, regret. But when he realised nothing like this was coming, he ambled down the staircase. It all went down so quietly, he thought. He expected violence to be louder.

Kneeling over his father, Adam could swear William was smiling.

“Christ, even dead you’re a smug prick.”

The ruffing up of William’s sleeve revealed a beautiful antique watch on his Father’s wrist. Gold and ebony. Exposed clockwork. It looked valuable. Very valuable. Adam removed the watch and placed it close to his ear.

“No more tick-tocks for you, Dad.”

Adam looked again at the watch.

“I might keep this as a memento of your everlasting love for me,” Adam said, patting his father’s cheek before putting the watch on his own wrist.

“Thanks so much for everything. It’s been a blast.”

As Adam walked out, taking his ski mask off and ruffling his hair in the sun, he didn’t hear his father’s reply, spoken as quietly as the gentle whirring of the watch.

“You’re welcome, Son.”

#

The phone woke Adam the next morning. Even though he’d been sober for years, the ring cut through him like a Monday morning alarm clock on a hangover. Shifting the stolen jewellery had kept him up late, but he managed to pawn more than enough to get the next tests for Emma underway. He knew people who knew people to speak to, the ones who wouldn’t ask questions in exchange for a bargain.

Stumbling for the phone, a sharp twinge lit up his back.

“Jesus,” he mumbled. “You’d think it was me who fell down the stairs.”

He picked up the receiver and rubbed his gritty eyes.

“Is that Mr Kelehan? Adam Kelehan?” The ear piece said.

“Who’s this?”

“This is Ms Powell, your father’s assistant. I’m afraid William took a fall yesterday. His driver found him this morning at the bottom of the stairs. He’s stable and awake, but in hospital. They say he’s very lucky to have gotten away with only a few cracked ribs and mild concussion.”

“Oh shit… that’s awful. Did he… did he say how it happened?”

“He’s not sure. He said he can’t remember anything after being dropped off by his driver the previous afternoon.”

“Good… no, I mean… good that his memory loss doesn’t go further back. Do they know if it will return? His memory?”

“I’ve no idea Mr Kelehan. Your father will be in hospital for a couple of weeks while he recovers. He has requested no visitors.”

“That’s not a surprise. He’s kind of proud.”

“Indeed. Perhaps when he’s home you could persuade him to get a stair-lift fitted.”

Adam put the phone down.

“Shit,” he said to himself. “Shit, shit, shit… No visitors. The fucker remembers everything. I know he does.”

Adam felt sick. Apprehension? Anxiety at being caught?  Or was it remorse? Maybe.

Damn it, Adam thought. He didn’t owe that son of a bitch any guilt.

#

“Look, Em, you’re turning me grey,” Adam said, shifting his hair with his fingertips to highlight a small greying patch.

A week had passed. Emma lay in silence, unresponsive as ever.

“I’m just kidding, but you should see the state of me. I’ve bags under my eyes the size of baseballs. Dry skin like you wouldn’t believe. It’s these double shifts. They’re killing me… Sorry, that was inappropriate. But you know what. It’s not going to be for much longer. Everything’s going to be alright. I came into a little money, you see. Let’s just say my lottery numbers came up.”

He took her limp hand.

“We’re going to get those tests done. I’ve already filled the forms in. Then we’re going to get you better. You’ll see.”

Nurse Shirley Foss drew back the blue curtain surrounding Emma’s bed.

“I’m sorry but that’s visiting time over, Mr Kelehan.”

“Already? Can’t I have a few more minutes?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Have I ever told you that you’re my favourite?”

“Many times.”

“You’re so much nicer than the rest of them round here. Someone as caring as you are would let little old me stay a bit longer, wouldn’t they? You wouldn’t even notice I’m here.”

“I’m sorry but flattery won’t get you anywhere. I can’t give you any more than the extra minutes I already do. If it were up to me, I’d let you stay, but it’s doctor’s orders. Dr Monahan is quite strict about these things. You don’t want me getting in trouble do you, Mr Kelehan?”

“Absolutely not. We couldn’t have that.”

Adam lent over and kissed Emma on the forehead.

“Goodbye, Honey. I’ll be back as soon as possible. I can afford to lose a few shifts now.”

At his bike, patting his pockets, Adam realised he’d left his keys beside Emma. As he got back to the ward Adam saw, through a gap in the partition on his approach, Nurse Foss administering an injection to Emma. He drew the curtain back sharply and Shirley jumped.

“Mr Kelehan, you startled me. You shouldn’t sneak up on me like that. I could have had an accident.”

Shirley put the needle back on a silver tray.

“Sorry, I forgot my keys. What’s that you’re injecting her with?”

“Just a little pain killer.”

“She’s asleep. She can’t feel anything.”

“We don’t know what people in a coma can or cannot feel. Why do you think you talk to her? She might well be aware, and she might be in pain. I think it’s best to be safe, don’t you?”

“I guess. You really think she might be in pain?”

“Only God determines that, Mr Kelehan.”

When Adam arrived for his evening shift at Del’s Diner his breathing was laboured more than normal. His legs were killing him too – stiff knees and hamstrings tight enough to hold up a suspension bridge. Adam’s body was a wreck. He checked his watch thinking he must have raced there but the opposite was true. Fifteen minutes late. Bending to lock up his bike, Adam burst into a coughing fit.

“Christ, the flu is all I need right now.”

#

A week later the phone woke Adam again. He made sure it was close to the bed so he could answer before whoever was ringing hung up. It was Ms Powell again, William’s assistant.

“I’ve good news,” she said. “Great news, actually. Your Father will be coming home later today. He’s made a full recovery. So soon, too. I’ve always known what a fighter William is. He says he’s healthier than ever.”

“Well, good for him,” Adam said. His morning voice croaked and sent him hacking up a lungful.

“That’s a nasty cough, Mr Kelehan. Anyway, he also requested to see you, he said he’ll send a car round to pick you up later this afternoon. He assumes you will be at home seeing as you’ve not been into work or the hospital in the last week. Is that correct?”

“Yeah. But tell the jackass if he wants to see me then he’ll have to come here himself. I’m not going anywhere.”

Adam tutted and sighed as he fumbled to end the call. Hardly the dramatic hang up he desired, but his fingers, crooked and stiff as coat hooks, couldn’t manage the action.

The phone rang again.

“Listen,” he answered. “I’m not interested in seeing him. If he wants to…”

“My Kelehan?” Said a voice that was not Ms Powell.

“Who is this?”

“This is Doctor Monahan, the specialist in charge of Emma. You didn’t come in yesterday, to talk through the test results.”

“Oh, shit, I’m sorry. I must have got my days mixed up,” he looked at his watch to check the date.  “It’s my watch, it seems to get the date all messed up. Antique piece of shit. And I’ve not been well. Really unwell.”

“I’m afraid there wasn’t much to talk about anyway. Everything we did came back negative.”

“Ah, shit. You’re kidding me. You must have found out something.”

“As I said, the tests were inconclusive. Moving on, we’ll have to do further MRI scans, or possibly exploratory surgery. If you could come in, we can discuss financial options.”

“I’ll get back to you about the costs. Is she ok though? Is there any change in her condition?”

“She’s the same. Stable, but unresponsive.”

“Can you tell her I love her and that… and that I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’ve not made it in recently.”

“She’s unresponsive, Mr Kelehan.”

“Could you not just do this one little thing for me, or is it going to cost me? The nurse, Shirley, said Emma might be aware, that she might be in pain.”

“Well she shouldn’t have said that to you.”

In the bathroom, Adam dribbled out a piss then struggled with his shaving foam. He was trying to do what he could to make himself respectable for his father, but his hands had the finesse of trowels. He could barely look at himself in the mirror. In the last two weeks most of his hair had fallen out, dark blotches riddled his skin, skin which was now jowly and wrinkled and stretched all at the same time. The most likely explanation, the internet said, was an autoimmune disease. His body was eating itself.

“I feel a hundred fucking years old,” he said to himself, now hacking with a razor at his white beard overloaded with shaving foam.

It took time, but he managed to get ready. His best shirt hung loosely, as did his flesh, from the sorry bent tent-pole of his spine. He looked at the watch he’d stolen from his father, smiled and rolled up his sleeves so it would be on full display.

The door buzzer went off like a cattle prod. After shuffling to the door, Adam buzzed his father into the communal lobby and sat back down to wait for William to climb the four floors. The old bastard would work for this, he thought. The sound of someone coming up echoed in the stairwell but there was no familiar clack of the cane. Only the spritely steps of a healthy man.

“Well, well. That worked a lot faster than last time,” the man at the door said, fiddling with his cuffs.

At the sight of the man in his doorway, Adam’s body took another giant’s step closer to inanimacy.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you recognise me? Don’t you recognise your own father?” William said, his showman hands styled to draw attention to his body.

Although William relished disputing the fatherhood of Adam, it was obvious how similar they looked. The old photographs of Williams’s wedding more than confirmed that Adam was his father’s son. So, to see the exact same man, the exact same age as he was in those wedding photographs, standing in his doorway, came as an understandable shock to Adam. He couldn’t get any words out.

“I admit, I’m a looking a little better than last time you saw me. Remember? Our little chat at the top of the stairs?” William said.

He walked up to Adam and leaned right into him, putting both hands on the arms of Adam’s chair.

“How old would you say I am? Thirty, thirty-five?”

He took a hand to his chin and moved his head from side-to-side, as if admiring himself in a mirror.

“It’s a miracle, right? How can I be fifty years younger than my own son?”

William reached down to Adam’s wrist, unclasped his watch and held it up to examine it. Adam experienced the pull of something – an energy, a life force – being aspirated from his body. It was the first time the watch had come off; he had never wanted to take it off, it never even occurred to him.

“Beautiful, isn’t it? I imagine you thought it was an antique, but it’s not. It never looks the same way twice. A watch like this is beyond time. It’s comes from a place your tiny mind couldn’t comprehend. You know, Adam, sometimes the scariest thing in our lives isn’t the neighbourhood serial killer. It isn’t losing your job, failing an exam or going bankrupt. Sometimes the thing you should worry about most is as simple as an old watch.”

The sound of more footsteps came from the stairwell. Multiple people.

“Of course, I had to get you to steal it, which is why I’ve been so mean. That’s how the curse works. That’s how the Lost Ones crafted it. Always playing silly moral games that lot. It’s a shame for you, though, it doesn’t consider motive, but what can you do? It is what it is. And, luckily for me, I’ve quite the talent for cruelty.”

Two women and a man appeared in the doorway dressed in the bleached-white smocks of care home nurses. They carried apparatus: metal poles and leather straps.

“Let me introduce you to my Uncle Adam. He’s a bit lost for words with gratitude at the moment.”

“Don’t worry,” one of the women said. “You’re in safe hands with us. Let’s get you downstairs.”

One of the men unfolded a wheelchair complete with restraining straps. Adam looked up at William.

“Emma?”

“Oh, don’t worry about her. She’ll be fine. I know a nurse at the hospital. Good old Shirley Foss. She is so very helpful. You took a liking to her I hear. Well, she makes sure Emma gets her medicine every day.”

William leant in closer to Adam’s ear so he could speak with a whisper.

“Nurse Foss tells me Emma is looking a lot better. She’s going to come round any day now. Shirley’s certain. And you can trust her. She really is an artist when it comes to poisons. A virtuoso composer. She can make a body tell any story she wants.”

“You… fuckers.”

“That’s harsh. Shirley was your mother’s nurse too, you know. When the poor dear came down with her fatal infection. But Shirley was a little older back then. You would have hardly have recognised her. The whole process was very rejuvenating for Nurse Foss, if you catch my drift. They saying helping others can have that effect.”

He paused to chuckle before continuing.

“Yes, we’ve made a good team through the ages, me and Shirley. Always got each other’s backs. She’s got her tricks, I’ve got mine.”

William leaned back a little, so he could look Adam in the eye.

“Despite what you think, I’ve always liked Emma. Apparently, one side effect from the poison is amnesia. A nice touch from old Shirley, don’t you think? Emma will probably have forgotten all about you. And I reckon I might be her type too, looks wise. Do you think I’ll have a chance?”

“How could you? How could you do that to her? And to me? I’m your son,” Adam said through the gaps in his coughing.

“I’ve had a lot of children. Far more than I care to remember over the years. Let’s just say the novelty wears off. But they are useful things, sons. As I’m sure you’re now aware. You’re just the next in a long line to play a part in this family tradition.”

William patted Adam’s shoulder like an old pal and took a step back.

“Do you know what my Uncle’s problem is?” William said, now addressing the nurses as they approached Adam. “He’s too nice. Always looking out for other people. He would do anything for you. He would resort to absolutely anything to help those he loved. I could tell you a story, believe me, but now’s not the time.”

“I don’t think that’s a problem,” said one of the nurses as they hauled Adam into a wheelchair and restrained his wrists. “I think it’s a very admirable trait.”

“But it can let those a little smarter take advantage of you,” William said.

“Well, you don’t have to worry about that anymore, Adam. Not where you’re going,” another nurse said with a manner not used on Adam since he was a young boy.

As the care home nurses carried Adam down the stairs, William, called out from the top.

“I’d say you’ve still got a few years left in you yet. Lots of time to mull everything over. I’ll come and visit. Maybe bring Emma. What do you say to that?”

Adam thrashed as best he could as they exited the building, but he too weak to be noticed. He tried to shout but his throat was too dry. There was nothing he could do to stop them. Nothing he could do to prevent a journey in the private ambulance where there waited Nurse Shirley Foss and her little bag of tricks.

The End

3 thoughts on “Family Tradition

    1. Thanks so much, Chris! I’m glad you said excellently paced because I was a bit worried this might come across as a bit basic/boring. It was an attempt to produce a more no-frills ‘scene/plot-driven‘ story than perhaps normal. Something that you could imagine as an episode of some kind of Tales of the Unexpected-style story. Thanks again for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was very early ‘Twilight Zone’! I though I had an inkling as to what was coming at the end, but I was horribly, horribly wrong…

        Like

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