Friday, March 29, 2013


Feats of daring were once so awesome.  Climbing Kilimanjaro was daring; skydiving was daring; running with the bulls was daring.  But now here Willie was on his living room floor, not two feet from his sofa, and he allowed himself his first laugh at his situation.  He had “dared” to walk from his chair to the bathroom before the nurse came and he had failed spectacularly, taking a plant stand and his phone crashing down with him.  Yes, he thought, he had fallen and he couldn’t get up.   And because he now knew why he shouldn’t have, why his nurse had always looked him in his eyes and told him not to be a “daredevil” there was no way in hell he was going to let her come and find him like this. 

Willie had picked up the phone that had, thank God, fallen by his face, and dialed the nurse.  He’d told her Alex the Neighbor, as she and Willie referred to him, had come over and taken care of him.  All is fine, my dear, I’ll see you tomorrow.  But of course he had no intentions of letting Alex find him this way either. 

Willie had spent a few seconds considering calling his son for help.  He understood that calling one’s son would probably be one of the first things an old man in his position might normally do.  But the kind of person- the kind of dad really- that Willie was, was not able to make that call.  At least he was not able to expect a happy response if he did make that call.

So here lay Ol’ Willie looking at his reflection on the television screen.  The years looked back at him.  He had never expected to live this long, to be an old man, to need his son’s help.  He figured he was leaving for good so long ago.  He knew it was cowardly, he knew there’d be consequences and ruined relationships.   But it had never occurred to him in all those years that one of the consequences of running away like he had might be that one day he’d be back and need help from someone on the other end of one of those relationships.

I could call, he thought.  He’d take my call.  I could pretend that all was well and I was just calling to see how he was.  And then I could simply sort of mention that, geez, I’m sure sorry about running away.  Then I could call back later and say, Hey boy, you’ll never guess what happened to the old man!  He smiled again.  Sure.  I’ll erase all that pain in one phone call.  Jesus Christ.

Willie looked around the room again for something that might help.  He saw the picture frame again- the one Nurse Ann had bought for him, “for a picture of the kids”- and this time his gaze fixed on the image.  It was the image that had come with the frame, a boy and father flying a kite.  The boy and father were looking at each other with huge exaggerated smiles on their faces.  Willie had always thought they were models, not really father and son.  He found himself staring at the photo now and caught himself thinking about Billy.  Well, Bill but Willie had always preferred Billy.

His thoughts surprised him.  He realized he was gazing tenderly at the photo and actually wondering how Billy was.  He was not consciously scheming; he seemed to be caring.  What had Billy’s boyhood been like?  Had he ever flown a kite?  Gone to the library and checked out adventure books?  Spent hours in his room flipping through an atlas and daydreaming?  Now Willie knew he was thinking about his own young years and the ancient anger he felt towards his own father began to well up.  He looked away from the photo.

But it didn’t help.  A thought was now forming in his head that he’d never shake.  Billy was not a secondary actor in the movie of Willie’s life.  Billy was his son and Willie had really done a number on him.  He felt sick.  I became what I hated!  How did I not see that?  Feelings he had never known were pouring down on him now. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.  Fuck me! 

I’ve got to see Billy right now.  I have to apologize!  His mind was racing now. One more adventure! He went to get up…and remembered that he was lying on the goddamn floor like the broken man he now understood himself to be.  One more fuck!

Hold on, Willie, he told himself, you can still call.  Yes, I can still say “I’m sorry” and if things go ok I can even ask for forgiveness.  Forget help. I can lay here until tomorrow.  God knows I’ve spent time lying in worse places than this.  And with a smile growing on his face, he reached for the phone.

This is my first entry in a fiction challenge I'm participating in. The prompt this week was:
to be deflated, belittled or humbled after the failure of a daring or boastful act.  1,000 words max and no dialogue, all description. *Show* not tell: how your character has softened, deflated from the beginning of his/her intro to now.

Please check out the other entries, and as always, thanks for your time:


  1. SO good! I'm so glad you're doing this! :)

  2. TOM - WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?! this was outstanding. i am so thrilled you're on board. what fun! this was hard to read, a little tortured, this old man on the floor, grasping tenderly at his past but defiantly as well. so good. it moved. i liked it.

  3. Great start! I can't wait to read more!

  4. First, you KNOW how happy I am that you're doing this.

    And second, I can't believe we both wrote about old dudes laying on the floor and thinking.

  5. Well done, sir! Sounds like a fun challenge, I'm looking forward to reading more!

  6. Tom: Loved your first entry. I felt his regret, sadness...moving!