Friday, July 27, 2012

A Storm Coming In

"...four miles, one thousand and one millibars, falling rapidly."

"A storm coming in," he said from his seat near the table. He reached over and switched off the radio, ending the shipping forecast.

I looked over at him, but kept my mouth shut. He stood, heaving himself out of the chair, and made his way to the single door, set into the stone of the walls. Even before he opened it I could hear the wind.

A blast of cold air swept in, damp with the sea, through the open door.

"Shut the door," I said, "you don't have to prove to me I can't go."

He remained at the door, his white hair blown back by the wind. He raised his face. I could see damp on his cheeks.

I swore and moved to the black telephone sitting alone on a corner table. There was dust on it. I picked it up. No dial tone.

Silence again descended on the room as he shut the door.

"No point trying that," he said, "it hasn't worked for the past couple of months."

"Why not," I asked. "They wouldn't have left the lines down that long. Not when it's needed." I stopped speaking and looked at him, the receiver still in my hand. "Have you not paid the bill?"

He shrugged and made his way to the sink, tidying away the cups we'd drunk tea from. "Why should I bother," he said. "All anyone ever gets is bad news from those things. Tell me, why should I bother?"

"So I can call Jeanette, let her know," I said. "Did you ever think of that?"

He waved his hand at me. "Jeanette's all right. She'll know." He turned to me. "She spent enough years here on the island. She understands."

"And I didn't? Spend enough years, is that it? So I don't understand. Is that what you're saying?"

He turned away again. "It's you who're saying it. Not me."

I slammed the receiver back in the cradle with a bang. He jumped. I moved away to stand looking out the window. It was dark now, clouds scudding across the sky, driven by a fierce Winter wind. I closed my eyes. "This is an old and worn road, Dad," I said. "Haven't we been down it often enough for you by now?"

I knew he shrugged. Even without looking at him, I knew.

"Say what you will," he said, "you always did. Do what you will. You always did that too, no matter what anyone else thought."

"You know why I left, Dad."

"I know you broke your mother's heart," he said, his voice rising. "I know that. And so should you."

I looked back to where he stood at the sink, his back towards me. "It wasn't my leaving broke her heart," I said. "It was losing two sons to the sea. I didn't want her to lose another one."

"The sea takes what it will. Your mother knew that."

I snorted. "Easy for you to say," I said, the heat rising in my own voice. "You weren't here. You never were. The sea didn't take you. You just went."

He looked back at me, his face not as hard as I'd expected, as hard as I'd grown used to. "There was food needed putting on the table." He nodded his head at me. "School fees to be paid, too."

"I know the cost of school," I said, turning back to the window. "I'm facing it myself, with my two."

"So you know," he said.

I nodded, still facing out the window, into the teeth of the storm that had now arrived. "I know, and yet I'm home with my family each day--" I turned, "--bar a night like this." I looked at him, unable to stop. "And my wife won't be alone in the house the night she dies because I didn't make it back from wherever I lay, sleeping it off."

There was a sharp click as he clamped his teeth around whatever he was going to say. We stared at one another a long moment then he looked away. As did I, back to the storm, ashamed of myself.

Time ticked away, measured in the harsh gusts of wind that battered the house. The windows wept from the rain driven hard against them.

I half-turned back to him. "What did you mean? The telephone. Bad news."

All I got was a grunt. I turned fully to him. "What did you mean?"

He shrugged. "Liver, lungs. Both shot. Nothing can be done."

I swayed and reached back to press my hand against the wall, steadying myself. "When?"

He looked at me, angry, proud, scared. "Two months, or so, ago. They gave me three, if I was lucky." He let out a short, harsh bark of a laugh.

I closed my eyes for a moment and then opened them again, looking at him. His face bore all the years he'd lived, and all that lay between us.

This would be a long night.


  1. Ah, dysfunctional families. Can't stop themselves from ripping those old scabs open time after time!

    Good job, I could feel the emotions here.

    1. Thanks, Larry. Yes, dysfunctional families - gotta love 'em, no?

      Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Oh this is such an emotive piece, it arouses all sorts of feelings, from anger, to sadness. Sometimes it's hard for parents and children to understand what motivates each other. Or perhaps the decision that one takes appears to be different to those who observe. Dysfunctional rears its ugly head, or is it just that each misunderstands the other"

    Nice writing Kevin.

    1. Thank you, Helen. Much of what (bad) happens in relationships can be laid at the door of poor communication. One saying something and another hearing quite something else - because neither is fully listening.

      Or, in such lies the material for story. :-}

  3. Wow Kevin, you packed a ton of story in a short space here. The emotion, the tension in the atmosphere is so well shown it's nearly palpable. Outstanding story!

    1. Glad you liked it, Deanna. And I'm glad the emotion came through well.

      Thanks for your kind words.

  4. Lots of power in this one, Kevin. You really ramped up the tension.

    1. Thanks for reading, Icy, and commenting. Very glad the tension comes through.

  5. Wow, I am kinda speechless here. So much history and sadness and realness in these words. Left me feeling strangely, and I guess that's a good thing. Long night indeed.

    1. Thanks, Amber, for the comment. I *hope* it's a good thing.

      Glad the piece sparked a reaction. That's all a writer can ask.