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January 29, 2010

Will Power

The room was dry air and decay.  And Leonard Talbot lay there dying.  He was in the metal hospital bed they had brought in along with the hospice nurse and a morphine drip.  Next to the bed there was a small table where Leonard kept his glass of water and a book.  Although he had become too weak to read, having the book there made him feel like living while dying was at least a possibility.  Across the room, each in his and her own winged-backed chair sat his children Margot and Leonard Junior.

“How are you feeling, father?”  Margot asked as she continued to turn the diamond ring on her angular finger.

“Lovely,” Leonard answered.

“Father, we’re here to try and talk some sense into you about your will.”

“I know why you’re here.  And why you’re not,” Leonard said, trying to push his voice into something beyond a weak crackling.

Leonard Jr. stood up and walked over to the window.  He would have rather been anywhere other than in the room with his father and sister.  They didn’t know him.  And they didn’t want to.  He was a performance artist who went by the name Toblat, which was his last name spelled backwards. He had been arrested for stealing a child’s wheelchair for one of his installations.  He was given to self-induced heart palpitations, and he thought he might feel some coming on.  “You know, I’m sure you’re enjoying yourself, amusing yourself, with this plan to give everything to the zoo.  But you’re running out of time to make things right.  I mean, I think I would feel at least a little better if you were giving our money to the mangy mutts at the humane society instead of the zoo.  At least I could feel like your joke on us did some good somewhere.”

Margot, agitated by this suggestion, rose out of her chair and walked over to her brother.  She knew she had to take charge.  She knew she was the only one capable of getting anything done the right way.  Steel your spine, she told herself.  She leaned into him and through clenched teeth she whispered in his ear, “For once in your life would you please stay focused?  We are running out of time here.”

Out of nowhere, Leonard knocked his hand on the slate-gray metal rail on his bed.  Margot and Toblat were startled by the force of the sound coming from their father’s corner.  When he knew he had their attention, he let the silence hang on the heavy air.  He wondered to himself how he could have possibly brought such miserable creatures to life.  Clearing his throat, more like a soggy gurgle, he said, “Well at least I know you’re not over there plotting my death.  You need me alive so you can change my mind.  Maybe that’s reason enough to keep saying I’m going to leave all my money to the godammed giraffes,” and with that he was once again exhausted.

Toblat let out a tiny whimper and Margot flared her nostrils.  Margot turned to her father, and smiled.

“I understand we have not always lived up to what you wanted us to be, father.  I, we, know we have not been perfect,” she said, glancing at her brother, “Far, far…far from it.  But we have always tried.”

Leonard rolled his eyes.  He was struck by the amount of energy it took to perform this simple task, which in the past was part of his daily repertoire of outward expressions of emotional discontent.

Margot, unfazed, kept going, “If you won’t reconsider this insanity for us, why not for your grandchildren? One of us has given you three of them, and so far they have managed to not do anything to screw their lives up.  Why punish them and force them to go around being beggars?”

With that, Toblat broke.  What a twit you are, he thought as he shot his sister eyes like slits.  “Oh for god’s sake, Margot.  It will only mean they will have to get a job.  Something you may not be familiar with, but hardly begging!  Besides, it may do the horrible little brats some good.”

“Shut up, you deviant!” Margot hissed from under a curled lip.  Why you didn’t just die at birth you freak of nature, she thought as she twirled and twirled her ring.

Leonard was on the verge of breaking in, just as he normally would about now.  Cutting his children off at their weak little beggar knees.  But this time he thought he would try something else.  This time, he didn’t care if they killed each other.  In fact, he thought to himself that if they actually preceded him in death, he might actually leave all of his money to the grandchildren.  And as a bonus before he drew in his last pathetic breath, he would get to see those two monsters claw each others little black rat pellet eyeballs out.

Leonard laughed to himself and said, “Do you want to know something funny?  One of you miscreants was adopted.  If you figure out which one before I die, I’ll give the entire fortune to the other.”

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2010 4:31 pm

    How about a little dysfunction with our #Fridayflash this morning? Wow, this family is a mess, so full of rage and frustration. Each one of them so self-centered and mean. Your writing is so crystal clear, sharp, and vivid. It’s always such a pleasure to read. ~ Olivia

  2. January 29, 2010 4:50 pm

    Great read! The hardest thing with flash fiction is to tell a complete story, much less a life.

    I found the occasional jumps into one of the children’s POVs a little jarring, for example: “Why you didn’t just die at birth you freak of nature, she thought as she twirled and twirled her ring.” I think the piece would be better told entirely from inside Toblat’s death bed.

    Thanks for the entertainment. I’m off to retweet…

  3. January 29, 2010 5:00 pm

    Thanks, Olvia, and right back at you.

    Daniel, your comment about POV is right, I think. I wrote this for an exercise to use true omniscient narration, and it was much harder than I thought it would be. And I agree there are places where I don’t pull it off. Thanks for reading.

  4. January 29, 2010 5:06 pm

    An evil twist on the prisoners’ dillema there in the last line. This is a great sketch of the corrupting power of insidious ambition. Was suspicious of Margot as soon as she started twirling that diamond ring! Great work.

  5. January 29, 2010 5:38 pm

    Man, that’s one screwed up family. I like Leonard, he’s tough as steel. thanks for the good read.

  6. January 29, 2010 5:46 pm

    You could as easily have turned the thoughts into dialogue and it would have emphasised the gulf between the siblings, getting your point across without breaking POV.

    I like Toblat. I don’t know if that’s intended. To be honest, I pretty much am Toblat in this situation.

    Like Skycycler, I loved that evil last paragraph – though a DNA test wouldn’t be too difficult to achieve. 😛

  7. January 29, 2010 6:32 pm

    Evil begats evil. No sympathy for any of them; well, maybe a smidge for Toblat. Great short, with too much ‘family togetherness’ for comfort. Peace, Linda

  8. January 29, 2010 8:02 pm

    Solid delivery of this family with issues. Agree on the POV, and agree with Skycycler-strong final paragraph.

  9. soesposito permalink
    January 29, 2010 9:40 pm

    Wow, that last sentence was like a physical punch. Well done! Also, the characters weren’t just sketches, they were full blown, in your face, dynamite personalities. Hard to do in such a short space. Nice!

  10. January 29, 2010 10:13 pm

    I really enjoyed this, and the POV thing didn’t spoil it for me. The characters were so well drawn, and the ending was just great!

  11. January 29, 2010 11:51 pm

    Yeah Toblat might be someone to feel for a little bit, but there’s that troublesome detail of the child’s wheelchair…

    I like the way these three people are so distinctly drawn, such different people. Gosh, nature’s cruel in creating families! I see Toblat secretly exulting in the hope of the final proof that he is not one of them; Margot wondering if there will be a way to scam her way to the money, and Talbot just amused with himself. Hell is people.

  12. January 30, 2010 12:22 am

    Great little jaunt through nasty human nature. Sadly, I didn’t feel symapthetic towards ANY of them. Which is alright – the characters are still crafted skillfully. I’m fine with the lot of ’em dying – might do the grandkids the most good 🙂

  13. January 30, 2010 1:08 am

    I loved it! Great ending. Well written and deviant.

  14. January 30, 2010 11:46 am

    Owch! What a family. Nice punch of an ending. The POV skipping was a bit strange to read but I think it did add to knowing how rotten they each were individually.

  15. January 30, 2010 5:47 pm

    Ha! Spoiled brats! Give ‘er to the zoo, Leonard! Sounds like your waning life is like that anyway. What a hoot!

  16. January 31, 2010 10:03 pm

    Thanks everyone. I’m sure we can all identify a little with Toblat, but hopefully none of us allow ourselves to become nothing but our ego, even if it is a wounded one. So no, not a lot of sympathy warranted here.

    I really appreciate all of the comments. I certainly don’t anticipate any further attempts at total omniscient narration anytime soon. Back into some unsuspecting character’s head somewhere. 😉

  17. January 31, 2010 10:03 pm

    Hi Lou,

    I enjoyed this. Really liked the poison between siblings and the neat little twist at the end. If I were to add anything, maybe do something with the descriptions of decay, rather than saying it smelt of decay, what does that smell like/look like?

    Great stuff!

    Virginia

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