In the Spirit of the Holiday Season
My Christmas cacti are blooming! And it got me thinking about a story I wrote last month, called 'Foreign Body'. I hope you'll see why the spirit of the holiday season prompted me to recall this story.
It's a departure from my mystery series!
This story was written to read to members of the Uxbridge Writers' Circle as my submission for the monthly word challenge.
The words I had to include in the story are in italics.
Nigel watched the clock as his leg jiggled up and down at double the time of its ticking. He was fed up with being confined to his chair, and if Marcus didn’t show up soon to take him to the harbour, he promised himself he’d do some serious damage. He was short of ideas on how he would vent his anger, but he had to do something, otherwise he would erupt, spewing fury and frustration in a fiery frenzy.
Marcus was already ten minutes late. This was simply not good enough.
Nigel liked to think he wasn’t the judgemental type, that he was open-minded and fair, but he thought there were too many foreign students being let in and they didn’t hold the same values or beliefs that the old money Canadian families did.
He had to admit, though, that Marcus was helpful and worked hard when he showed up. And, although alone in his shabby bungalow overlooking the sea, he nodded in acknowledgement that Marcus was pleasant to have around.
Marcus wasn’t his real name, but it was the best approximation that Nigel could manage.
Nigel’s anger abated somewhat as he reflected on what Marcus was studying. Unfortunately, he was a foreign student, but he’d not only almost mastered the English language, but he’d enrolled in mechanical engineering. Nigel had enjoyed their chat on Monday. In fact, they had a stimulating discussion about torque. Marcus had told him it had helped him to sort out a few points for a presentation he had to make in his next tutorial.
Nigel had asked Marcus if there was an assignment he could help with. He had an urge to reactivate his brain even as his body failed him. He was delighted to hear Marcus had to write a paper on the use of tidal force to generate energy. Nigel had been a strong advocate for green solutions. He’d been instrumental in the design of a lighter, more efficient battery system that could be used in electric cars. He’d invested in its manufacture and was pleased with the results. That was a long time ago, though.
Both Nigel’s legs were restless now. His anger had fizzled, and was replaced with worry. He heaved himself out of his brown leather chair, which he should have replaced ten years previously, and stood, swaying slightly, breathless.
The physical challenges he faced hadn’t developed from physical illness, but rather from depression and the accompanying inactivity.
As he stood on trembling legs, it was as if the act of standing had cleared his mind. A curtain lifted to reveal his true inner self. He’d become an obnoxious old man, old before his time, living in a house suffering from neglect and having other people do the bare essentials so he could continue sitting in his chair, looking out at the sea and moaning to anyone who’d listen.
Marcus was probably sick and tired of him despite their chats about engineering and physics and climate change. He most likely wasn’t coming again.
When is it too late in a life to change? On the brink of letting his body flop back into the chair that fit him like a glove but trapped him like a corset, he resisted.
The front door flew open.
“Sorry. Late. Something happened,” Marcus blurted out.
“My dear boy, there’s blood on your face, and what’s wrong with your thumb?”
“What on earth happened? Sit down. Sit down, for god’s sake.”
Nigel picked up his cane and pointed to his chair. Marcus collapsed onto it and held his head in his hands.
“I’ll call an ambulance.”
“No. Please do not. No hospital.”
“You need medical attention.”
“Be fine soon.”
Nigel shook his head, picked up the phone and dialled his neighbour, a retired nurse who’d made it clear to Nigel that she didn’t want to have anything to do with sick people. She was retired. And she’d had the audacity to tell him to pull himself together and stop wasting his life.
So, it wasn’t easy to convince Dot to come, and all the while, Marcus kept waving at Nigel to stop, but he didn’t. Nigel wobbled out to the kitchen and put the kettle on. The counter had lost its original sheen, and the pattern had all but disappeared in parts. The taps were dull. He supposed they must have been shiny at one time; and there were rust stains in the badly scratched stainless-steel sink.
Nigel watched in awe as Dot tended to Marcus’ wounds. Marcus refused pain killers although he was shivering and letting out the occasional soft groan. Dot and Nigel agreed Marcus should stay for the night. The patient was grateful.
In the morning, Marcus admitted that he’d been beaten up just because he was brown. Nigel didn’t know what to say. He’d been a young white male once. He felt ashamed.
Marcus commented on how much better Nigel was doing. In fact, Marcus was astounded. Nigel had made coffee and toast, and had cut up some fruit.
“I have a proposal to make,” Nigel said. His hands were shaking, so he kept them in his lap. He didn’t want to be turned down. He’d never experienced this sensation before. He’d always been in charge, in control.
“Okay,” Marcus said, as he peered over his coffee mug.
“You probably don’t know, but I have a lot of money. I’m from an old money Canadian family.”
There was no reaction from Marcus.
“I’m going to buy a new house.”
“I thought you might like to share it with me instead of living in that hovel of a basement apartment you talk about.”
“But I cannot afford.”
“No payment necessary. You would be company, a companion, and help with some chores.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I want to start living again. I know you will leave at the end of your studies. That’s okay. By then, I’ll be much better. I’m sure of it.”
Vicky Earle Copyright 2021