“Where the hell’s Rosalie?” Pat Bowman asked as he peered over his son Mark’s shoulder toward the front door.
“She was here this morning, Dad,” Mark said with a sigh. He sighed a lot these days, though he tried not to.
“Wasn’t that Becca?” Pat said.
“Well, yeah. Becca was here, too. A little while ago. Rosalie came this morning, though.”
“I would’ve sworn…” Pat’s attention refocused on the television.
“She’s the one who came earlier, Dad. Trust me.” Mark decided to hold his big inhale this time. Sighing didn’t make Mark feel any better about his father or his own role as Pat’s health proxy and primary caregiver.
Besides, what good would sighing now do? The doctors and therapists explained to him how his father’s condition would become frustrating. Then would come the hard part. Mark closed his eyes and tried not to think of what the hard part would be like in light of the past three months.
“Who the hell thought this stupid ostrich was a good idea to sell insurance,” his father, a retired business executive, said.
“It’s an emu, Dad. But you’re right. It sucks. Annoying as hell.”
“Stupid fucking bird. Assholes must think we’re idiots. If some ad man brought me this concept I’d throw him out the window. See if he could fly as well as some damn ostrich.”
“Relax, Dad. It’s only a commercial.” Mark was seeing more of these tirades all the time. And they hurt.
He recalled how when they were kids, his sisters Rosalie and Rebecca and he couldn’t go to sleep without listening to their father tell them a silly story. Never the same one, unless they asked for one. Pat Bowman put the “gentle” in “gentleman.”
Mark thought of the time back at Yale when he the cops hauled him in after trying to score some weed off an undercover. Pat drove from Albany to New Haven in a blizzard to bail Mark out and drive him home. Not once did he raise his voice or issue a profanity. Not one “damn,” let alone a “fuck.”
“You’re better than this, Mark. You know the difference between right and wrong, and the law says what you were trying to do is wrong,” Pat said.
“It’s a stupid law, Dad. But, yeah. Sorry. I fucked up,” Mark said, his chin to his chest as he stared at the floor board.
“Careful of your language, Mark. Words have power I don’t think you fully understand yet. How you use them communicate as much as what you’re trying to say. I tried my whole life to set a good example for you. Maybe I slipped up — slipped up — somewhere. Always remember, you’re my main man, pal. When I go, I want to say ‘My boy Mark is The Man.’ Not ‘The *blanking* Man. MY Man.”
And so he was.
Mark’s mouth twisted into something between a grin and a grimace thinking of that night. “MY Man.”
“When the hell is Rosalie coming? Was that a car?” Pat said, trying to rise.
“Sit! Yep, It’s Rosalie,” Mark said with touch of relief.
“Hi, Mark. You get some rest. Hi, Dad,” Rosalie said as she breezed into the living room.
“Thanks, Ro. Later, Dad.” Mark said, and kissed his father’s forehead.
“So, is there anything I can do for you, Dad? Need a drink, something to eat?” Rosalie said. Just so she knew she’d have his attention, Rosalie stepped between her father and the television screen.
“Yeah, get outta the way. And can you tell me who that guy was who just left?”
This is a larger version of a 250-word story I wrote (Yes, I WROTE!) Thursday in response to Siobhan Muir’s Thursday Threads flash fiction mini-competition. It was probably better at 250. Somehow, though, my piece won. Never ceases to floor me when one of my simplistic, minimalist stories garners some bit of approbation. It’s humbling and encouraging. Those are two ingredients any writer needs to make his or her next bit of creative sustenance.